Ohio opened its season with a win on Wednesday against interconference opponent Troy. Led by a 24-point night from sophomore AJ Brown, the Bobcats came away with an 88-70 victory.
“I think it was an awesome crowd tonight, really pleased to see the turnout; the student section, the band, cheer, dance just make this place an unbelievable atmosphere,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “They really got into it; our guys fed off their emotion.”
It was a slow start on offense for both teams, as it was only a 9-2 game after the first five minutes of play. As we expect to see all season from Ohio, however, the team played great perimeter defense and made it difficult for Troy to find open shots.
Starting a lineup that consisted of only one player above the height of 6 feet, 4 inches, the Bobcats struggled to rebound throughout the game. Ohio lost the rebound battle 40-32.
“All week, coach was saying, ‘We have to be the tougher team, we got to play bigger than our size,‘" guard Elmore James said. “Obviously, we may not have the size of other teams, but I feel like you gotta have heart over height.”
James, a 6-foot-3 guard, shared a team-high in rebounding with AJ Brown as the duo went for six rebounds each at the end of the game.
Things started to pick up in the first half when Ohio went on an 18-0 run as time ticked towards halftime. The 18-0 run was highlighted by a great defense that forced a lot of turnovers and scored a lot of points off of turnovers. Heading to the half, Ohio held a 15-point lead of 43-28.
As the teams headed to the locker room, Ohio already had two double-figure scorers in AJ Brown and James. Despite the slow start, James and AJ Brown looked incredible in leading the Bobcat offense.
Each team struggled to do much for a large portion of the second half. Coming out, the game saw a lot of fouls from both teams and a lot of points off of free throws, especially for Troy. The Trojans were able to score 14 points in the second half off of free throws alone.
Several Ohio players found themselves in foul trouble early on in the second half, including AJ Brown, who had been the key part of the Ohio offense so far.
AJ Brown was playing with three or fouls almost the entire second half.
“You gotta let them play through it and see how they respond,” Boals said. “That’s a tough team to go against because they put so much pressure on you defensively, we had multiple guys in foul trouble ... I thought our guys did a great job at the end; we knew they were going to drive us, we knew they were going to jump into us and create the contact. We made enough plays in the last 10-12 minutes.”
Troy was able to cut the Ohio lead to just six late in the game. Ohio struggled to put Troy away out of the half, allowing their 15-point halftime lead to nearly vanish. Nevertheless, in the final minutes of the game, it was Miles Brown and AJ Brown who each knocked down big shots that put the lead out of reach for Troy.
“We came out there prepared and we came out and did what we had to do,” AJ Brown said. “...We did the small things, made the right passes, had the mental toughness, boxed out; we just did all the small things to get the win today.”