Ohio got its most important win of the season so far Saturday, blitzing Central Michigan 96-68 to improve to 2-4 in the Mid-American Conference.
After a crushing loss to Toledo on Tuesday in which Ohio allowed the first 13 points and 26 of the first 33, it could not afford another slow start.
“It’s important (to get off to a good start), especially when you’re at home, to get the crowd into it,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “Getting off to that start gives us confidence, and it’s something we want to do.”
It took Ohio just over five minutes to go up double digits, and that was a sign of things to come. A shot clock-beating floater from Elmore James in the final minute of the first half gave Ohio a 21-point halftime lead, and Central Michigan never got the lead back under 20.
If there is a theme to Ohio’s season thus far, it is the reliance on 3-point shooting. So far this year, Ohio is 0-6 when shooting under 30% from beyond the arc and 10-3 when shooting over 30%.
That continued Saturday, as the Bobcats shot 46.9% from 3-point range and made 15 3-pointers, their most in a game this season.
Ohio was led by Miles Brown, who had career-highs in both 3-pointers made, with six, and points, with 27. He was not the only one who shot well from three, however, as Jaylin Hunter and DeVon Baker each hit a pair of threes.
Because of the attention paid to Dwight Wilson III in the post, Ohio has gotten plenty of good looks from beyond the arc this season, and when they are going in, Ohio can be extremely dangerous.
“That just expands the whole court for us,” Brown said. “We have a monster (Wilson) down low in the paint, so when our guys get going from the perimeter, it’s easier for us to get the ball in the post and let DJ do his thing when they have to worry about the 3-point shot.”
After Saturday’s game, the Bobcats now lead the MAC in made 3-pointers and rank third in 3-point percentage.
In addition to shooting much better from beyond the arc Saturday, than it had in the last two games, Ohio also made a change to the starting lineup.
Just a few days after posting a career-high 21 points against Toledo, James made his first start for Ohio, replacing A.J. Brown in the starting lineup.
“It was amazing,” James said. “And the fact that my older sister graduated from here makes everything better. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”
James put up nine points on 4-of-8 shooting with five rebounds and a steal, and he represents a shift for Ohio over the last few games.
After shortening the rotation towards the end of nonconference play, Boals has started to go deeper into his bench, and has been rewarded with solid play from players like James.
“We got multiple guys who can play,” Boals said. “We kind of went away from that to an eight or nine man rotation. As long as those guys come in and bring energy and effort, I think they can really help us.”
Boals was certainly rewarded for getting more guys on the court Saturday, and despite a slow start to conference play, the MAC is tight enough that this win could be the start of a resurgence for Ohio.