Men's Basketball: Bobcats prepare for ‘athletic’ contest against Tigers

Jon Smith looks for a open teammate against Wofford at The Convo. Ohio won 75-50. (Jason Chow | Staff Photographer)

Jon Smith is listed as 6-foot-6, meaning he is nine inches taller than the average American man age 20 or older. He weighs only 187 pounds — more than eight pounds less than the national average.

Yet Smith, a redshirt junior forward, is routinely assigned with taking opponents’ big men to task. It’s a role he embraces and has dealt with well this season, as he has shot better than 70 percent from the floor and collects a team-best five rebounds per game this season.

Ohio coach Jim Christian routinely says that it’s not simple observables that make Smith a key cog for the Bobcats, but it’s his intangible skills that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet.

His 12 blocks — a team-high — 13 offensive rebounds and lone turnover are products of an on-court grittiness, but Christian said it’s time spent without a ball in his hands, in part, that makes Smith a special player for Ohio.

“One of the things he doesn’t get enough credit for (is) that Jon will come in and watch a lot of film on the guys he’s going to play and their tendencies — kind of like a football thing,” Christian said. “I give him a lot of credit for that. He understands what he can do, what he can bring to the team, and because of it he’s so, so valuable.”

There’s plenty for him to pick apart in preparation for Memphis on Wednesday, as the Tigers tout a stout crop of main contributors, headlined by sophomore forward Adonis Thomas, who is listed as 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds.

Thomas leads the team with more than 12 points per game, and fellow forwards Tarik Black, a junior who averages 11 points per game, and Shaq Goodwin, a freshman who leads the team in rebounding, pose formidable threats in the paint.

“They have two guys across the front line that are over 6-foot-9 and (240) pounds and a 6-foot-7, 240-pound small forward, so they’re as big and athletic as any team in the country and obviously are going to play hard,” Christian said.

The Tigers’ prominence in the post shines through in the form of offensive rebounds, as they have grabbed 78 — 11 more than Ohio — this season.

Smith is looking forward to squaring off with the Tigers’ trio of big men Wednesday, saying that there’s plenty riding on putting forth a positive effort.

“They’re obviously a really good team, a really athletic team, somebody that everybody’s looking at to gauge how good we are,” Smith said. “Everybody else in the country will be like, ‘How do they play against Memphis?’ So we are excited to really show our game plan off and play the best we can.”

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