During Ohio's (13-11, 7-4 Mid-American Conference) four-game winning streak, the team played strong defense to go along with excellent shooting; however, on Saturday in its 100-87 loss to Arkansas State (11-14, 6-6 Sun Belt Conference), Ohio had one of its worst defensive performances of the season.
The Bobcats looked like the same team that had won six of their last seven games early in the matchup. Ajay Sheldon made three consecutive 3-point jumpers including two makes from well beyond the line. Sheldon's 3-point outburst combined with a 3-point jumper made by Ike Cornish, gave Ohio its largest and last lead of the game.
Sheldon likely saw an increase in minutes not just because of his strong play, but because of the absence of guard Shereef Mitchell, who had previously played in every game for Ohio. Mitchell had the least amount of minutes of any Ohio starter in the team's previous game against Ball State and was inactive versus Arkansas State.
From that point on, the Red Wolves dominated the rest of the first half. The Red Wolves made six of their last eight 3-point attempts as part of an impressive 33-12 extended scoring run over the last 9 minutes, 40 seconds of the first half. The long run gave Arkansas State a 51-39 halftime advantage. Despite the 12-point deficit, Ohio still shot a respectable 48% from the field and 42% from 3-point range.
Ohio appeared to get back into a rhythm to start the second half, forcing two straight stops and getting scores from AJ Clayton and Jaylin Hunter, cutting the deficit to 7. As they had in the first half, the Red Wolves responded with a scoring run to deny the Bobcats a chance to get back in the game.
The scoring run warranted an Ohio timeout but the bleeding didn't stop for Ohio. While Sheldon continued to rack up points, leading to the guard reaching a career-high of 17 points, the Bobcats' defense still had holes. Arkansas State went on another 17-6 scoring run which gave the home team a commanding 23-point lead.
The Bobcats continued to be effective on offense and even got within 9 points of the Red Wolves' lead with less than two minutes to go, but never posed a serious threat to win the game. Arkansas State became the first team to score 100 points against Ohio in its 100-87 loss since the 2018-19 season when Ohio lost to Buffalo 114-67.
Despite the negatives defensively, Ohio still shot over 50% in the game, including 46% from beyond the arc. Ohio had five players in double-figures including Hunter, who led the way for Ohio with 20 points, and Sheldon, who had a career-high of 17 points as the the second-most leading scorer for Ohio.
The good news for Ohio is that Saturday's setback will not impact the team's NCAA tournament hopes, as Ohio's path still remains within the MAC tournament. However, if the Bobcats want to make a run in March, allowing 100 points on 64% shooting will not be good enough.