Men's Basketball: Bobcats end homestand against Bonnies

Senior forward Ivo Baltic takes a shot during the second half of Ohio’s matchup against Hampton University. Baltic had 16 points in the Bobcats’ 75-67 win Nov. 20. (Conor Ralph | For The Post)

St. Bonaventure is a model of perseverance.

After forward Marquise Simmons suffered an Achilles tear in the team’s 2011-12 season-opener and the Bonnies watched guard Michael Davenport go down with a season-ending shoulder injury six games later, their season could have been all but scrapped.

They battled back, though, finishing the season on a 16-7 run in the wake of Davenport’s setback.

St. Bonaventure emerged victorious from the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament, which Ohio coach Jim Christian labeled “not an easy tournament to win,” and were a three-pointer away from forcing overtime against Florida State in the NCAA Tournament.

And in the present, they provide Ohio with its latest nonconference challenge, boasting a formidable four-guard set that will test the Bobcats’ ability to stick closely to their men on defense.

“They can really penetrate with the basketball,” Christian said. “They have some really physical interior pieces to go with that, so it’s a big test trying to keep them out of the paint.”

The Bonnies (3-1) will pressure the Bobcats (5-0) to be active on the interior, but will also present a challenge in the respect that they don’t convert only by driving the rim, but by distributing from the paint to jumper-ready guards.

The Bonnies average 71.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting, fueled by an above-average 15 assists per contest.

Chris Johnson, a senior guard, leads the Bonnies’ offense with 16.5 points per game and is one of three players averaging more than 50 percent from the field.

Fellow senior guard Demitrius Conger is almost as impressive in the scoring scope, as he contributes two points less than his backcourt mate, on average.

The cog that keeps the St. Bonaventure offense ticking, though, is Simmons, a redshirt senior who is the benefactor of both players’ midrange threats. He has turned the ball over only twice this season and shoots an unparalleled 67 percent from the floor.

Three of the Bonnies’ starters average at least nine points per game and converts at least 44 percent of their shots.

However, fatigue or foul trouble could work in Ohio’s favor on offense, as St. Bonaventure’s second tier of scorers cash in more than one of three shots.

The Bobcats’ depth — a preaching point of Christian’s — has been a key component all season, as referenced in Saturday’s convincing win against Richmond.

As a result of foul trouble from sixth man Reggie Keely, a senior forward, the Bobcats turned deeper to the bench and were plenty pleased with their results against the Spiders.

“That’s the strength of our basketball team,” Christian said. “I thought T.J. (Hall) stepped in and gave us good minutes, Ivo (Baltic) went over to the five for a minute, Jon (Smith) played great — that’s what’s going to have to happen. There’s not a good team in the country that when somebody has a bad night someone else doesn’t have to step up.”

There’s plenty of good vibes coming from Ohio’s locker room, but plenty to prepare for in the form of St. Bonaventure.

“We feel confident, but at the same time, we don’t get comfortable,” said Smith, a redshirt junior forward. “We have St. Bonnie coming in here — a real strong, physical team — so we take every day as a new day.”

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