Men's Basketball: Bobcats sweep weekend games

Reggie Keely goes up for the shot despite being surrounded by multiple Wofford defenders. Ohio won the home game 75-50 Sunday. (Jason Chow | Staff Photographer)

Ohio trailed its opponent for only 11 seconds of game play in 80 minutes of competition during the weekend, besting University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Wofford by a cumulative 61 points.

The Bobcats shot better than 50 percent from the field, forced more than 20 turnovers and at least doubled their opponents’ number of assists in each of the games — the first of which was an 85-47 victory, and the latter ended 73-50 in Ohio’s favor.

It wasn’t so much the weekend’s statistics that impressed Ohio coach Jim Christian, but the Bobcats’ ability to adjust on the fly and anticipate the play before it was carried out, he said.

“They’re able to kick it into gear when they know what’s going on,” he said. “You just have to point out a couple things to them and then they start communicating.”

This weekend, the exchanges between players were mostly pleasantries, as both contests, though different in pace and flow, showed signs of improvement from the season’s first week, namely the play of Ohio’s interior players.

Senior forward Reggie Keely came off the bench for 14 points and seven rebounds in Friday’s game and led Ohio (3-0) offensively against Wofford (1-3), putting home 16 points on six-of-seven shooting. 

“Every time we have a conversation it’s pretty much, ‘Run the floor, get deep post touches, be physical and be what we need you to be out there,’ ” Keely said of his coach’s instruction. “I try to take that to heart.”

Christian said that Keely’s production stems from a renewed refusal to become complacent in lagging behind on the Bobcats’ fast break and working away from the ball — both of which can be tied to Keely’s conditioning.

Senior forward Ivo Baltic was also more effective from mid-range and in the paint during the weekend, leading Ohio with a 10-for-12, 20-point performance against UNCW (1-2). He also had nine points against Wofford, missing only three attempts.

“The deeper you get the ball, the harder you are to guard,” Christian said of his forwards’ weekend production. “Sometimes we settle and catch the ball six, seven feet outside the lane, where now you’re a perimeter player and now you’re putting other teams’ defense into your hands.”

Defensively, Ohio was on point during the weekend — especially before halftime. The Bobcats allowed UNCW to score only 17 points in the first half, and Wofford converted only three field goals before regrouping during the break.

Like Christian has preached all season, sound defense created opportunities at the other end of the floor, as referenced by the Bobcats’ 31 points off turnovers and 27 on the fast break Friday.

The increased pace also tied back to the impact under the basket, from which Ohio poured in 70 points on the weekend.

The Bobcats had 12 offensive rebounds against the Seahawks on Friday, but were not as effective against the Terriers, grabbing only four on the offensive glass and falling in the rebounding margin by three.

“As long as you’re rebounding the ball at the defensive end, you’re getting stops, and (if you’re) outrebounding on the offensive end, you’re getting extra baskets for your team,” Ohio redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt said.

The Bobcats committed a season-high 17 turnovers Sunday, many of which Christian said were unforced — a result of players trying to thread the needle on a pass or failing to recognize the right play for the situation.

“Like I told the team afterwards, it was the first time we’ve been under 80 (points) and it’s because we had 17 empty trips,” he said. “If you have 17 empty trips, it’s hard to get to the numbers that you want to have up there.”

Sunday’s loose handle and rebounding margin lends to potential points of emphasis for Christian and company this week, but they will have only one day of practice before butting heads with Hampton at The Convo on Tuesday.

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