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Ohio guard, DeVon Baker (no. 22)looks to pass the pass against Akron defense. The bobcats win 90-81 in the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio on Feb. 10, 2023.

Men's Basketball: Ohio's bench provides key boost in win over Akron

Ohio has shuffled its rotation around a lot this season. From different starting lineups to shortening the bench, Ohio has changed the way it attacks all season. 

On Friday, Ohio had no choice but to go to the bench. Dwight Wilson III, Elmore James and Miles Brown entered foul trouble early in the first half. Ohio coach Jeff Boals turned to DeVon Baker and Gabe Wiznitzer to hold down the fort. 

“I thought they were really good,” Boals said. “Gabe had three offensive rebounds (and) seven total rebounds, probably more importantly one turnover. DeVon Baker in back-to-back games now I think he’s averaging 10 points… To see that value from him is really big for us.” 

Wiznitzer played the second-most minutes of his career — 20 — in Ohio’s win. He ended the night with those rebounds and four points. Wiznitzer played clean defense and walked away with only one foul. 

The junior’s main contribution was on defense. He held Enrique Freeman to seven points in the first half. Wiznitzer knew that he wasn’t going to have the same effect as other Bobcats, but he was still confident in himself.

“Knowing me and D.J. are different players, I’m probably not going to bring the offensive prowess that he’s going to bring, but being solid on the defensive end and just learning the floor and setting good screens. I’d say that was my mindset,” Wiznitzer said. 


Ohio’s Ben Roderick (No. 3) lands on the scoring tables as he saves a ball from out of bounds. The Bobcats beat the Zips 90-81 in the Convo in Athens, Ohio, on Feb. 10, 2023.

Baker, on the other hand, went 6-of-6 from the free throw line and had four rebounds. One of his rebounds came on a denied jumper that he retrieved and gave to A.J. Brown for a 3-pointer. Baker’s role was mostly silent, but did contribute positively to Ohio’s victory. 

The senior had hit a slump over the midpoint of Ohio’s season, but he’s found his way out of it. His experience makes him a valuable asset to the bench. 

“When Von plays well, he changes our team,” Wiznitzer said. “He’s an older guy that’s played a lot of college basketball, so he knows when to make a play. I think that having that piece off the bench elevates our team to another level offensively.” 

The main rotation for the Bobcats during the first half was Baker, Wiznitzer, A.J. Clayton, Miles Brown and Jaylin Hunter. Hunter contributed 16 points in the first half and helped lead the Bobcats through their foul troubles. Hunter, however, was a member of Ohio’s bench earlier in the week.

“It kind of felt like the summer,” Hunter said. “I mean we got a lot of reps up this summer. Picks, rolls, communication and I think we just have been able to have a little bit of extra chemistry.”

Ohio’s bench contributed 20 points and 15 rebounds by the end of the night. It may have looked different to the crowd, but to Ohio, it felt like clockwork.


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