The air in The Convo was different after DeVon Baker planted his feet and shot a 3-pointer to kick off Ohio’s game against Alabama State. As Baker’s shot fell into the basket, there was not a quiet person on Ohio’s bench. The energy radiated off of an Ohio team that had been dull the past week or so and it carried Ohio to a 72-58 victory.
“We just really challenged (the team) to come out with more energy than Alabama State,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “I thought we did and we got some defensive stops which led to the transition buckets and the (3-pointers). Once those go in, you know, it's easy to be energetic when things are going well.”
Everything went well for Ohio (3-3) on Friday despite it missing a key element: Dwight Wilson III. Ohio turned to its extensive bench and found a solid rotation.
Leading the drive was Gabe Wiznitzer, who played a season-high 22 minutes in his first start as a Bobcat. Aidan Hadaway and Ben Roderick contributed big minutes off the bench. Roderick was instrumental in Ohio’s scoring attack with 11 points and Hadaway contributed 4 rebounds.
“We have a lot of guys who can play,” Boals said. “In the first half if they’re doing well, the bench has got to come in and increase the intensity or at least keep it. When things are struggling, that’s when you want guys coming off the bench to provide a spark.”
The sparks were flying in The Convo and not a single Bobcat looked out of place on Sunday. The Bobcats played with a fluidity that they hadn’t had in a while and entered halftime with an 18-point lead over the Hornets (1-7)
“We wanted to turn things up going into the second half,” Miles Brown said. “We had a comfortable lead going into the half, but we knew (Alabama State) was just going to keep coming and that (it) was going to be aggressive going into the second half.”
A.J. Clayton helped Ohio stay on the warpath in the second half. He contributed 10 of his 13 points in that half alone. The sophomore also grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds on the night, six of which came during the second half.
Clayton wasn’t the Bobcats’ only catalyst. Brown led the team with 18 points, the second-most he’d scored in a game for the Bobcats. His efforts in both Sunday and Friday’s games earned him the MVP award of the Bobcat Battle.
Brown was thankful to have received the award, alongside Roderick, who received an All-Tournament team nomination. However, Brown knew that his team had helped him win that award, and even waved them over to celebrate with him at the award ceremony.
“We all competed hard. It’s not just a single MVP award (or) an All-Tournament Team award, it’s an all team award. Everybody deserves an award. We all put on a show today,” Brown said.
Ohio had its best team game this season on Sunday. It had the juice to start a win streak and remain undefeated at home. Now, it's up to Ohio to keep it that way.