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Aj Clayton (23) forward position on Ohio University Men's basketball team jumps for the jump ball to start the game at The Convo in Athens, Ohio, Nov. 2, 2023.

MBB: Ohio takes first loss of the season on the road to Cleveland State

Ohio had flashes of high-level play in its 82-78 loss to Cleveland State but struggles with defensive rebounding and fouls doomed the team.

“I thought our guys really battled, it was a really good basketball game,” Ohio Head Coach Jeff Boals said. “Give Cleveland State credit; they’re a good team.”

Ohio’s offense was rarely the issue, the team shot 50% from the field and 44% from three. The Bobcats were particularly hot in the first half when AJ Brown made his first four shots of the game. He and fellow sophomore Elmore James combined for 16 of the team’s first 18 points. Ohio stormed out to an 8-point lead thanks to the strong starts from Brown and James. The Vikings, however, answered with a 9-0 run, forcing the Bobcats into three turnovers in just 2 minutes.

Ohio was forced into playing without Brown after the sophomore picked up his second foul with 7:27 to go in the half. AJ Clayton picked up some of the offensive slack with two 3-point jump shots to give Ohio a narrow lead. Luckily for the Bobcats, the Vikings were dealing with foul trouble of their own as star forward Tristan Enaruna picked up his second foul of the game with 5:40 to go in the first half.

Ohio made just one field goal in the last five minutes of the first half but got to the free-throw line enough to hold a 40-38 advantage at halftime.

Early in the second half, stops were hard to come by for both teams. Ohio’s 3-point shootings and ability to get to the free-throw line made it difficult for Cleveland State, while Cleveland State’s tenacity on the glass allowed for second-chance points. 

“When you do a great job of getting stops like you stop them and they shoot and miss, you got to convert and come up with that 50/50 ball,” Boals said. “When you get 16 extra opportunities it puts more pressure on your offense and your defense.”

Ohio grabbed a 3-point lead after a 3-point jumper from Jaylin Hunter with 11:28 to go. However, after a turnover from Hunter and a technical foul by Gabe Wiznitzer, Cleveland State forward Jayson Woodrich made back-to-back three-point jumpers to give Cleveland State a 60-57 lead.

At least offensively, Ohio was able to bounce back through first-time starter Shereef Mitchell. Mitchell scored 6 straight points for Ohio to help keep pace with Cleveland State. Defensively, Ohio’s issues guarding Enaruna started with just under 10 minutes to go. Enaruna had 5 straight points and a steal in only a minute. Elmore James made a layup to tie the game at 65 with 7 minutes to play, but the Vikings would respond. After a jump shot by Tae Williams, Mitchell missed a layup through heavy contact, and Woodrich made his third 3-point jump shot of the half to put the Vikings up 5. Ohio called a timeout after the play and was issued a technical, which led to two free throws, both made by Woodrich.

The 7-0 run gave the Vikings a lead they held for the remainder of the game. After trailing by 8 with 4:30 minutes to go in the game, Mitchell and James made tough buckets to pull Ohio back to within 4. On the next possession, however, Enaruna made a 3-point jump shot to extend Cleveland State’s lead.

Enaruna finished the game with a game-high 22 points on 6/13 from the field while making 9/12 free throws.

Despite being down 7 with little time to go, James forced a steal and found Clayton in transition to quickly cut Cleveland State's lead to 5.

Ohio forced a stop and got out into transition again where Brown hit an open three off the glass to bring the score to 77-75. Enaruna found Drew Lowder wide open at the top of the key for a 3-point jumper to answer Ohio’s late run.

James was fouled on Ohio's next possession and connected on one of two free throws. Mitchell came up with a steal to give Ohio another chance, and he connected on back-to-back free throws to cut Cleveland State's lead back to 2. With only 30 seconds to go, Ohio was forced to foul and Lowder made one of two free throws.

Down 3 with 15 seconds to go, Ohio struggled to find a clean look to tie the game and would have to settle for a contested awkward shot for 3 by Mitchell. Mitchell’s attempt was no good and Ohio fell 82-78.

Despite the late miss, Mitchell ended the game as Ohio’s leading scorer with 15 points on 6/13 from the field. All five Ohio starters ended with 10 or more points. AJ Brown ended the game with just 12 points despite starting 4/4 in the game’s first 7 minutes.


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