YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - As Dwight Wilson III’s layup sat on the rim for what seemed like an eternity, Ohio’s eventual 81-79 win, and possibly its season, hung in the balance.
If it had fallen to the right, the game would have headed to overtime. Youngstown State, who dominated much of the second half, would’ve had a great chance to hand Ohio its fifth road loss in five games away from Athens.
It would have been another heart-breaking loss for Ohio, who already lost to Belmont on a buzzer beater and to Michigan in overtime.
Instead, the ball fell to the left and into the net. The Bobcats’ bench sprinted to pile on top of Wilson underneath the basket, as they won their first road game of the season in dramatic fashion.
“I was praying it didn’t roll out,” Wilson said. “I was just sitting there watching it, and I’m so happy that shot went in.”
Sunday’s game was the second time this season that Wilson saved Ohio, the first coming in that loss to Michigan, when Wilson’s last-second tip-in sent the game to overtime.
Wilson is the oldest and most experienced player on an Ohio roster that features six freshmen and three sophomores, and it has shown in the biggest moments this season.
“That’s what you want your seniors to do,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “He’s delivered big in two games, and we’re going to keep going to him.”
The Bobcats probably shouldn’t have needed a buzzer beater to beat the Penguins, however, as they led by 13 at halftime. After a DeVon Baker 3-pointer increased their lead to 16 to start the second half, it looked like the Bobcats were headed for a comfortable victory.
A few minutes later, another basket from Baker put Ohio up 52-40. However, Youngstown State responded with an 11-0 run to close the gap, and eventually took its first lead of the game with about 12 minutes to go.
The Beeghly Center got loud, and the Bobcats looked extremely flustered as their offense ground to a halt and the Penguins’ Brandon Rush, who finished with 26 points, continued to rain 3-pointers.
But Ohio recovered, which is not something it has been able to do away from home so far this season.
“When you go on the road, you gotta find a way to win,” Boals said. “We talked before the game and said ‘refuse to lose more than you want to win.’”
One big reason Ohio was able to grind out a win Sunday was Old Dominion transfer Jaylin Hunter, who has played a huge role this season in replacing the production Ohio lost in the offseason.
Hunter has done a little bit of everything for the Bobcats this year, and Sunday was no different. He finished with 17 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals, and his presence was felt on both ends of the court throughout the game.
The guard had two early steals that were part of Ohio’s 8-0 run to start the game. He also hit a huge 3-pointer in the final three minutes to put Ohio up 75-73 after it looked like the game was going to slip out of reach.
“He had a great week of practice,” Boals said. “It paid off today.”
The game may have been tougher than it needed to be, but the Bobcats did enough to hang on and as will probably be the case a few more times this season, Wilson brought them home.