Emotions flared in The Convo on Tuesday night as Ohio took on Ball State. The adrenaline seeped from the crowd onto the court with each passing minute as Ohio survived a major 14-point deficit, came back and handed Ball State its first Mid-American Conference loss of the season. However, the 76-71 win took a lot out of Ohio.
Things looked bleak for the Bobcats in the first half. They didn’t score for six minutes, and the Cardinals went on an 18-0 run. The Bobcats were on a road to nowhere.
However, Ohio didn’t want to let the course of the game be. After it forced Ball State to commit a shot clock violation with only a few minutes left in the first half, everything changed. Ohio surged and broke its scoring drought on a basket by Dwight Wilson III.
The Bobcats had a new energy for the last two minutes of the first half. The energy peaked when DeVon Baker stole the ball from the Cardinals and passed it to Miles Brown for a layup.
Ohio came out for the second half with that same energy. It wanted to stay alive. Ohio faltered in the beginning of the half, but it soon found its feet again. For the first time since the third minute of the game, the Bobcats found themselves in the lead after a 3-pointer by A.J. Clayton.
Clayton contributed 16 points off the bench Tuesday. The sophomore had been a regular starter for the Bobcats, but Ohio coach Jeff Boals felt the need to shake things up.
“For him to come in and do what he did in 29 minutes, you know, 16 points, six rebounds, that was big,“ Boals said. "He was plus 20 in 29 minutes, so I give him a lot of credit.”
The Bobcats fed off Clayton’s performance and returned to the blitz they had effectively used in the first half. They were visibly more comfortable in transition, and it helped the Bobcats continue their path to victory.
“When we went to our 2-3 zone, we started getting deflections, and that’s something we’re big on,“ Jaylin Hunter said. "The higher the deflection, the more likely that we’re going to win the game. That’s what the stats say."
Hunter led Ohio on offense Tuesday night. He had 23 points, four steals and four assists. Hunter turned the ball over three times in the first half, but he did not have a turnover in the second half.
Wilson also contributed to the attack, with 22 points and 10 rebounds. The graduate student, who averages a double-double, has been a force for Ohio this year. He had a fresh view for Ball State, though.
“The guys were kind of challenging me a bit. I never try to make it about personal matchups, but I knew in these past two games, I didn’t do enough. I didn’t want that to be the case this game,” Wilson said. I didn’t care if it was (Payton) Sparks, the other guy (or) the third guy, I’m going at ‘em. Nine times out of 10, it’s going to come down to the paint.”
Wilson’s fresh perspective combined with Ohio’s ferocity led the team to a victory on Tuesday. Ohio has to play the tough part of its schedule first, and it is going to need Tuesday’s swagger heading into the rest of the conference slate.