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Jaylin Hunter on Ohio University's Mens Basketball team, leads the team out for warm ups at The Convo, in Athens, Dec. 6, 2023.

Men's Basketball: Ohio's dominant first half leads to win over Central Michigan

Correction appended: a previous version of this article stated the score was 73-69 in the first paragraph. The story has been changed to correctly indicate that the final score was 73-61.

Ohio (8-9, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) picked up a much-needed 73-61 home MAC win on Tuesday night over Central Michigan (8-9, 3-2 MAC) behind a season-high 17-point performance from Miles Brown and a game-high 19-point outing from Jaylin Hunter.

Although any win over an above .500 MAC opponent is impressive, to do so without All-MAC guards Elmore James and AJ Brown is one of Ohio's more impressive feats of the season.

With one of the team's best perimeter defenders, Miles Brown, in the starting lineup, the Bobcats were able to neutralize the Chippewas' offensive attack early and often. Ohio allowed just 3 points through the first 5 minutes of the game.

Not long thereafter, Ohio's offense matched its defense's effectiveness. Brown scored 6 straight points early in the game to give the team the lead, and senior guard Jaylin Hunter extended the lead with the first 3-point jumper for Ohio.

Brown made his fourth basket in the game's opening 10 minutes on a 3-point jumper, giving Ohio an early 18-9 lead.

Right after Brown extended the Bobcat lead to 9 points, Ajay Sheldon came up with potentially the most resounding block of his Ohio career when he lept up and emphatically swatted a potential Central Michigan layup out of bounds.

The Chippewas appeared to get back in the game with 5 straight points, but the Bobcats surmounted their longest-scoring run with 13 unanswered points.

The scoring run included 5 points from starter Aidan Hadaway, most notably a 3-point jumper converted off a turnover.

Ohio continued its hot start in the remaining minutes of the second half, but a Central Michigan buzzer-beating midrange jumper cut Ohio's lead to 40-28 at halftime.

Ohio's offense didn't slow down in the second half. Shereef Mitchell and Hunter combined for 5 points in the first 34 seconds of the second half to give Ohio a 17-point lead. 

Although Ohio's shooting was a bit inconsistent as the second half progressed, the team's defensive effort never faded. While the Chippewas still shot a respectable 40% from the field, its proficiency on the glass was the key to the Bobcats' defensive success. 

Hadaway knows the team hasn't been as good as it has wanted to be early in the season on the defensive glass, but Tuesday's performance showed improvement.

"Obviously, our defensive rebounding, that's been a weakness for us pretty much all season," Hadaway said. "This was a good start for us."

Central Michigan only had six offensive rebounds and, because of this, only managed three second-chance points. 

Ohio's defensive presence loomed large in the game's final 10 minutes. Even as Ohio had started to cool off offensively, the team's defense never let Central Michigan get closer than 10 points within its lead.

After both teams went through several scoring droughts, Ohio broke through with back-to-back buckets to take a comfortable 14-point lead with 2 minutes to go.

Ohio finished the game with a 73-61 win. 

Thanks to impressive individual efforts from Miles Brown and Hunter, Ohio was able to grab what is potentially its biggest win of the season so far, even without one of its leading scorers and leading rebounder Elmore James. 

“This is a brotherhood," Miles Brown said. "One person goes down; everybody steps up."

Hunter led all scorers with 19 points, while Miles Brown didn't trail far behind with 17 of his own. Although Gabe Wiznitzer and AJ Clayton combined for 11 points, their impact won't show up on the stat sheet. The two centers combined to hold Central Michigan center Markus Harding scoreless for only the second time all season.

As disappointing as some of Ohio's close losses have been, the team's goals are still in front of it just five games through conference play. According to Ohio Coach Jeff Boals, the key will be to stay as one as a team.

"I'm proud of our guys," Boals said. "I think we just continue to build, continue to stay positive, continue to stay together and go day by day."


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