Updated Thu, Dec 19, 2013 11:19 am
The Bobcats (7-3) dropped their first home game of the season Wednesday, as they fell to the No. 22/20 Massachusetts Minutemen (10-0) 83-71.
Ohio could not get any momentum in the first half as UMass answered the Bobcats just about every time they scored. The Minutemen relentlessly attacked the basket and took advantage of Ohio’s slow defensive rotations.
On two straight offensive possessions for the Minutemen, Maxie Esho waltzed down the lane for a layup and a dunk in the middle of the lane. Esho finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
UMass went into halftime with a 45-34 lead, thanks to its strong perimeter defense and efficient offensive play. The Minutemen held Ohio to 42 percent from the field, while they shot 65 percent from the field.
Ohio head coach Jim Christian noted that Ohio did a poor job of keeping UMass out of the lane. He also explained that Ohio played poor transition defense, which allowed the Minutemen to get some easy baskets.
“They do a great job of making you pay,” Christian said. “We can’t afford for those things to happen, obviously, moving forward.”
At the open of the second half, however, Ohio played with plenty of energy and was quick to rotate on defense. The Bobcats’ energy was evident when Ricardo Johnson intercepted a UMass pass and outlet it ahead to Stevie Taylor, who finished the break with a layup to cut the Minutemen’s lead to 53-47.
Then on the way back, T.J. Hall rotated over to stop an open Cady Lalane, allowing Jon Smith to come over from the weak side to block Lalane’s shot.
The energy quickly waned for the Bobcats, though, as UMass used a 9-0 run highlighted by another Maxie Esho dunk and a Chaz Williams step-back 3-pointer to push its lead out to 62-47.
Treg Setty and Hall sparked a mini comeback for Ohio, as they both converted layups and cut UMass’s lead to 64-56. Hall finished the game with 8 points, and Setty pitched in 4.
The Minutemen remained in control, though, and Williams found Sampson Carter for an open 3-pointer. UMass’s lead then ballooned out to 80-61 on the electric play of Williams. The 5-foot-9 Brooklyn native finished a layup and a contested 3-pointer over Taylor late in the second half.
Ohio’s leading scorer, Maurice Ndour, finished with 16 points. He only shot 6-for-15 from the floor, though, and he stated that his poor shooting performance was just a matter of bad execution.
Christian said that he and his team will look to learn from this game.
“We have something we can look back on, and say ‘okay we were in this big game; how did we do?’” Christian said.
“We’re gonna be in some big games, and we can’t play like that.”
Ohio will look to regroup Sunday when it will take on the Richmond Spiders (8-3) in the Robins Center.