Ohio has found its groove since a rough 1-4 Mid-American Conference start earlier this month. Ohio picked up its second win in a row, and third overall conference victory, Tuesday night with a 88-76 win against Western Michigan.
The Bobcats entered the game knowing that they needed to turn up their defense because of Western Michigan’s dynamic guard, Lamar Norman Jr. The Bobcats managed to limit Norman to 20 points in 37 minutes due in part to Miles Brown’s tenacity on defense.
He didn’t have the best night shooting wise, as he finished 0-5 from the field, but he still played a large role in securing Ohio’s win. He helped force Norman to go 1-9 from beyond the arc in the second half, which allowed Ohio to creep up on Western Michigan.
“I thought our awareness was really good in the second half of whether he was coming up a wide pindown to stagger or a ball screen,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “I thought our bigs did a good job of shadowing him coming off that ball screen. Miles did a really good job contesting him.”
Ohio’s bigs did a lot of the grunt work on both sides of the ball. Dwight Wilson III scored a career-high 31 points and also contributed 11 rebounds. A.J. Clayton also contributed 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Bobcats opted for several different rotations against the Broncos, and at one point they stuck all three A.J(ay)s out on the court.
“I just love being out there with both of them. I like to confuse people,” Clayton said. “Somebody yells ‘A.J(ay)’ and we’re all looking. It’s one of my favorite things.”
A.J. Brown scored 16 points for Ohio and was 6-for-10 from the field. The freshman provided Ohio with an offensive boost during stalemates with a smile. Brown was able to get into the lane and draw several key and-1s. He currently averages the third-most points on the team with 10.4 points per game, behind Wilson and Miles Brown.
“We’re blessed to have him. A lot of mid-major schools don’t get kids like that,” Wilson said. “He’s so humble. He works hard every day, plays with energy and he knows that if he has a mismatch, he’s going to cook them whether they’re a sixth-year or a freshman like him.”
While the Bobcats did start the game with energy, it started to run out toward the middle of the first half. The game went back and forth without any stoppage and it wore on the Bobcats. They eventually called a timeout to help minimize their exhaustion, and it worked.
Ohio was revitalized in the second half and only allowed Western Michigan to take over the lead once — by one point at the 13:35 minute mark. The same Ohio that blew Central Michigan to pieces was back on the court.
“We got that six to eight point lead and when you’re in that situation, you have to do what we did. You have to get the stops,” Boals said.
Ohio is going to need to remain consistent throughout the weekend if it wants to continue its run of luck. It has to travel to Akron Saturday, and so far, Ohio has yet to win a MAC game on the road.