Updated Fri, Feb 14, 2014 11:00 pm
After falling to Toledo in its last game, Ohio (17-7, 7-4) will look to improve to 1-1 in what is the toughest five game stretch of the season when it takes on Buffalo (14-7, 8-3) Saturday.
The Bobcats will face three of the four teams that sit ahead of them in the MAC standings in their next four games, so getting a win against Buffalo could do wonders for Ohio in terms of seeding for the MAC Tournament and momentum.
In order to come away with a win, though, Ohio will have to contend with the MAC’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder in Javon McCrea. Putting up 18.3 points per game and 10.2 boards per game, the senior forward is the only player in the MAC to average a double-double.
McCrea, who is 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, is a similar player to Akron’s Demetrius Treadwell, who the Bobcats have already faced this season. Both players use their large frames to play physically and barrel their ways inside.
However, Jon Smith had one of his best games of the season when he went up against Treadwell. The senior forward finished with only five points, but he was extremely active on the defensive end of the floor, finishing with eight blocks, seven rebounds and three steals. Treadwell finished with 16 points in the game, though he only shot 7-of-19 from the field. The Bobcats could use another game like that from Smith against McCrea Saturday.
Ohio will also be looking for a bounce back performance from Maurice Ndour, who fouled out of Ohio’s loss to Toledo after struggling offensively, recording only nine points and two rebounds. It’s difficult for Ohio to compete when its second leading scorer goes 3 for 7 from the field.
The Bobcats could potentially be without T.J. Hall once again, as his status will likely be determined before the game on Saturday. In addition to Hall’s potential absence, Ohio may have to play without starting point guard Stevie Taylor, who suffered a calf contusion in the loss to Toledo. Taylor’s status will likely also be determined Saturday.
If Taylor and Hall cannot play, Ohio will look for Javarez “Bean” Willis and Travis Wilkins to step up. Both have performed admirably when their numbers have been called this season. Wilkins posted 17 points on 5 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc while pulling down a career-high 8 rebounds when he replaced Hall in the starting lineup against Toledo.
When Taylor fouled out in Ohio’s win over Eastern Michigan, Willis stepped up and scored 12 points including the eventual game-winning 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining. With matchups with Western Michigan and Akron and a rematch with Buffalo looming on the horizon, the Bobcats will undoubtedly want Taylor and Hall back as soon as possible.
Rebounding will be a key for Ohio against the Bulls, as Buffalo ranks fourth in the MAC in offensive rebounding with 12.7 offensive boards a game. Ohio gave up 16 rebounds to the Rockets Wednesday. McCrea and company will have a field day if Ohio fails to box out the way it did against Toledo.
In fact, rebounding will be a key in the next few games, as the ‘Cats will be facing an Akron squad that recorded 17 offensive rebounds in its first game against Ohio as well as facing off against Buffalo for a second time.