Men's Basketball: Final buzzer marks end of postseason play for Bobcats

Junior guard Stevie Taylor attempts to save a play from defending Virginia Military Institute senior forward D.J. Covington, left, and VMI junior guard Brian Brown, right, at The Convo. The Bobcats were knocked out of the CIT play after losing to VMI 92-90. (Kaitlin Owens | Staff Photographer)

Wednesday night marked the final game in the Ohio basketball careers of seniors Nick Kellogg, Travis Wilkins, T.J. Hall and Ricardo Johnson.

The winningest class in Bobcats history saw their careers end in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament against Virginia Military Institure, losing 92-90 at The Convo.

“It all just kind of hit me,” said a teary-eyed Kellogg after the game. “When the final buzzer rang, this is the last time I’m going to be playing with these guys, last time playing in this building.”

Kellogg scored a career-high 30 points on 9 of 14 shooting and hit six of his 10 attempts from behind the arc.

Despite trailing by as many as 12 points with 3:23 remaining, Ohio put on a furious rally in the waning minutes of the game, cutting the deficit to as a little as two. But the Keydets hit free throws when they needed to and iced the victory.

Christian said the credit for his team’s cohesiveness and never-say-die attitude came from its senior class.

“The senior class, I think they did an unbelievable job of coming into the year and identifying that we wanted to have a more together group and maintaining that throughout the year,” he said. “And that’s something I think needs to carry on.

“The resiliency of this group, to come back in games, to play through injuries … I think there’s a lot to build on.”

Entering the game, VMI led the nation with 88.9 points per game and was tearing up the postseason with point totals of 106 and 111 in its first two CIT contests. Those totals can be at least partially attributed to the fact that the Keydets play at the second fastest tempo in the nation, according to KenPom.

That pace wore on Ohio in the second half, which only used eight players because of multiple injuries. Hall was unable to play in his final time wearing a Bobcats uniform after not practicing this week because of a leg injury. 

VMI seemingly found its way to every loose ball and grabbed every contested rebound in the second stanza. Ohio’s defenders struggled to trail the Keydets, which shot 68 percent in the second half and outscored the Bobcats 53-44.

“(VMI) made plays,” Christian said. “Those guards took us off the dribble, made some big shots and (center D.J.) Covington’s size was a lot to handle. … They made every big shot, every big free throw. I give them credit.”

Covington, a senior who was averaging 39 points per game in the CIT, recorded a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds. And senior guard Rodney Glasgow hit big shot after big shot in the final 20 minutes, with 18 of his 30 points coming in the second half.

Ohio fought that quick pace early on, forcing VMI to labor late into the shot clock with double teams and traps that flustered the Keydets early. That effort, combined with the Bobcats’ early lights-out shooting, gave them a 35-18 lead at the 7:21 mark in the first half.

“I thought we played great defense in the first half,” Christian said. “I thought our ball-screen defense the first 10 minutes of the game was as probably as good of defense as we’ve played in the last 15 games.”

But the Keydets eventually found their stroke, using a 10-0 run to get back into the game and narrowing the Bobcats’ lead to seven points at halftime. Ohio’s 46 points before the break was its highest first-half total of the season.

Junior forward Maurice Ndour closed out the season with his best scoring performance since January, putting up 26 points on 12 of 13 shooting. Ndour started the game making his first nine shots, missing his first with 12:09 remaining in the second half.

Ohio ended its season with 25 wins for the third time in Bobcats’ history.
 

@C_Hoppens
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