Updated Mon, Feb 17, 2014 1:18 pm
With Stevie Taylor out and T.J. Hall limited by an ankle injury, Ohio needed its role players to step up against Buffalo on Saturday. Javarez “Bean” Willis and Travis Wilkins both played well in their absence, but freshman forward Antonio Campbell was the hero for Ohio in its 73-70 road victory over the Bulls.
With 1:03 remaining and Buffalo leading, 70-69, Maurice Ndour lobbed a pass to Campbell, who sealed off his defender. Campbell caught the pass and finished the open look to put the Bobcats up, 71-70. On the Ohio’s next possession, Ndour drove and put up a layup that bounced off the rim. Campbell was there for the tip-in to push Ohio’s lead to 73-70.
Campbell finished the game with six points and six rebounds with all of his points coming in the last three minutes of the game.
After Campbell’s put-back, Buffalo raced down the floor and called a timeout to draw up a play for Jarryn Skeete. Skeete inbounded the ball and got it back on a handoff. Nick Kellogg defended the play well, stripped the ball from the Buffalo guard and ran the remaining time off the clock.
The Cardiac ‘Cats overcame a double-digit, second-half deficit for the seventh time in the last 15 games. With 9:47 left in the game, Ohio trailed Buffalo, 63-53. The Bobcats’ comeback effort began when Jon Smith found Ndour on a backdoor cut for a baseline layup. Ndour missed the layup, but Smith corralled the miss and put it back in.
Smith’s put-back ignited a 12-0 run for Ohio that was highlighted by an and-one layup and the game-tying 3-pointer from Willis. The junior point guard filled in well for Taylor, who was out with a calf contusion. Willis finished the game with nine points, five assists and four rebounds.
Buffalo forward Javon McCrae posted 18 points and eight rebounds against the Bobcats. Stopping McCrae was not the key for Ohio; the Bobcats knew that McCrae would be difficult to stop. Instead, Ohio focused on shutting down McCrae’s supporting cast, which it did fairly well.
Joshua Freelove had 10 points in the game, but he only shot 4 for 12 from the floor. The Bobcats used a 2-3 zone to clog up the paint and force the Bulls to shoot from the outside. Buffalo fired up 16 shots from beyond the arc and only made four of them.
Offensively, the Bobcats struggled with Buffalo’s pressure. The Bulls extended their man-to-man defense, picking up the ball handler at half court. The pressure often broke up the Bobcats’ offensive sets and forced them to take difficult shots in the first half.
Ohio eventually took advantage of Buffalo’s defensive aggressiveness, using backdoors and pick-and-rolls to get easy looks at the hoop.
Kellogg and Ndour both led Ohio with 17 points in the game.
A complete, team win on the road like this could really help Ohio build momentum, which it will certainly need. In their next two games, the Bobcats will take on Akron and Western Michigan. Both of those teams have already beaten Ohio this season and sit ahead of the Bobcats in the Mid-American Conference standings.