Updated Mon, Feb 3, 2014 10:10 am
Ohio had proven time and time again that it could respond to adversity against some of the weaker teams that the MAC has to offer, but the question remained: Could they do it against the top teams in the conference?
Ohio emphatically answered that question Saturday when it defeated Toledo, who entered the game with the best record in the conference, 95-90 in overtime.
The Bobcats undoubtedly played their best basketball of the season against the Rockets. Every time Toledo threw a punch, the Bobcats responded with a punch of their own.
In overtime, Julius Brown led Toledo by hitting pull up jump shot after pull up jump shot. To counter, Ohio turned to Maurice Ndour, who was practically unstoppable all game. Ndour scored six of his career-high 28 points in the overtime period by hitting a mid-range jumpshot and throwing down a pair of dunks that both put Ohio in the lead.
Stevie Taylor, who finished with a career-high 23 points, forced a five second call on Julius Brown with just over a minute left and Ohio leading by one. Then Taylor hit a pull up jumper at the other end to give Ohio a three point lead.
“Coach told us to get lost in this atmosphere, get lost in the game,” Stevie Taylor. “At the end of the day, we got stops when we needed to get stops, and we got the win.”
Brown heaved up a deep 3-point attempt to tie the game, but it went begging. Taylor capped off the win with a break-away layup.
“We need one of these games to kind of grind out and finally come out on the winning side,” Nick Kellogg said.
With 11:28 left in the game, Toledo went on an 11-0 run to push its lead out to 69-58. Ohio remained calm, and went on its own 9-0 run to claw its way back into the game. Travis Wilkins started the run by nailing a 3-pointer. Then he found Kellogg, who finished with 18 points and 9 assists, for 3-pointers on the next two possessions to bring Ohio to within two at 69-67.
“We’re able to weather things and not become too obsessed with the negative,” Coach Christian said. “We just keep playing, and that’s what you have to do.”
The main reason that Ohio was able to stay in the game and withstand Toledo’s runs was its offensive execution. The Bobcats had crisp ball movement that kept Toledo’s defense moving. Then once a crack was exposed, they attacked it. Ohio shared the ball extremely well, totaling 22 assists as a team.
Ohio shot 53.7 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Seeing Ohio shoot well and execute on offense was definitely encouraging, as the team’s poor offensive execution was the weak point for Ohio in its last few games.
“We know we can knock down open shots when we step up with confidence and are aggressive,” Kellogg said.
Ohio and Toledo traded baskets and runs for the majority of the second half. Trailing 74-67, Ohio went on a 14-2 run with about six minutes left to once again claw back and take the lead. The run was highlighted by a Jon Smith dunk and an and-one layup from Smith on back-to-back possessions.
Just as both teams had done all game, Toledo answered and sent the game into overtime on a Brown jump shot.
“This was just a great college basketball game,” Christian said. “In my 25 years of doing this, this was probably the most fun I’ve had at a basketball game.”
The Bobcats were led by Maurice Ndour, who finished with a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds. Stevie Taylor finished the game with 23 points and 4 assists, and Nick Kellogg pitched in 18 points and 9 assists.
Ohio will face Western Michigan (11-8, 4-3) in Kalamazoo Wednesday. Toledo will face its rival Bowling Green (9-11, 3-4) Wednesday.