Ohio’s 79-62 defeat of Capital on Thursday was a dress rehearsal. Ohio had nine new players that it needed to acquaint with The Convo. Ohio didn't expect everything to go perfectly, but it did expect to perform better than it did.
“A couple guys, I think the first time in front of fans was a little different for them, but I thought they settled in,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “Capital’s a good team to play. I knew coming in it would be a difficult team for us to guard by the way they play offensively. They don’t have a true five man (and) we do.”
The Bobcats spent the night shuffling the lineup over and over to find out what worked best for them. All five first half substitutes— Gabe Wiznitzer, Elmore James, Olumide Adelodun, Aidan Hadaway and Ajay Sheldon—played at least six minutes in that half. It was a clear attempt to get new faces time on the court, but it caused the Bobcats to lose ground at times.
Ohio struggled early in the game, as it kept missing open shots and struggled with put-back shots. Part of that could be attributed to nerves, though. It was clear that nerves surged through Ohio caused the ball to slip through its hands often in the opening minutes.
Ball handling was an overall issue for the Bobcats. They tried to avoid live turnovers, but the Bobcats couldn’t keep hold of the ball, especially in the first half. The Bobcats had 15 turnovers by the end of the night.
“Our goal is to have 12 turnovers or less in a game, and we had seven at halftime. We challenged them to have 10 or below in the second half. I think for us, simple is better. Not trying to make the home run play (or) not trying to do too much in traffic,” Boals said.
Despite the turnovers, Ohio earned most of its points in traffic. Ohio was not afraid to charge through the paint. DeVon Baker and Jaylin Hunter spent the majority of the first half plowing through the Capital defense to the rim.
The rest of the Bobcats joined in on the action in the paint during the second half. Ben Roderick even found himself on the floor at one point after plowing into the paint. The Bobcats had to drive in order to reclaim lost ground from the lack of 3-pointers.
The Bobcats were helpless from beyond the arc, making just 2-for-23 3-point attempts. The Bobcats were able to see the rim just fine, they just couldn’t connect.
“We were definitely rushing. We had good looks, they just weren’t falling,” A.J. Clayton said. “You have nights like that.”
Ohio’s defense was clean. The defense was slow to start, but it picked up later in the second half. It avoided fouls and forced Capital into 23 turnovers. Both Clayton and Dwight Wilson III were magnetic to the ball. Wilson ended the night with 10 rebounds and Clayton had nine.
“Both of us are very big and athletic, so I think that was a big part of (our success),” Clayton said. “They tell us to go get it, and we emphasized that tonight.”
The big emphasis of the night was seeing if the new Ohio could handle the pressure and it did. The bumps along the way are a part of acclimating to an almost brand new team. Ohio jumped head-first into the deep end and came out just fine.
“I always tell them its better to learn from winning than it is to learn from losing,” Boals said. “You can learn from both, and we’ll learn from (tonight).”