Updated Fri, Feb 21, 2014 5:10 pm
After squandering an opportunity to gain some momentum and move up in the Mid-American Conference standings Wednesday, an injury riddled Ohio (18-8, 8-5) will look to regroup Saturday when it travels to Akron to take on the equally injury hampered Zips (17-9, 9-4).
The Bobcats surprisingly played with no sense of urgency against MAC-leading Western Michigan in their last time on the hardwood. The Broncos simply outhustled the ‘Cats in their 73-63 win. Western Michigan completely controlled the boards, as it pulled down 14 offensive rebounds en route to 28 second chance points.
Ohio played lackluster defense against the Broncos as well, repeatedly rotating slowly and giving up open shots. Offensively, things weren’t much better for the Bobcats, as they often tried to force the issue and turned the ball over 17 times.
Rebounding and turnovers will once again be the points of emphasis for the Bobcats Saturday. In the last matchup with the Zips, an 83-80 double overtime win for Akron, Ohio accumulated 15 turnovers. It also surrendered 17 offensive rebounds.
Ohio will once again have to contend with Demetrius Treadwell, who is an absolute force down low. The junior forward scored 19 points in his last showdown with Ohio’s big men, though he only shot 7 for 19 in the game. Jon Smith did a good job of remaining active and blocking shots on defense, recording eight blocks in the game. The Bobcats will look for a similar performance from Smith in the second matchup.
Ohio will catch a break Saturday, as three key contributors for Akron will miss the game. Nick Harney, who scored 10 points in the first meeting between, was suspended from the team indefinitely on February 11. Harney is a particularly big loss for the Zips, as the senior forward had averaged 13 points and five rebounds per contest in the four games before his suspension.
Sharp shooter Reggie McAdams will also miss the game with a case of mononucleosis. McAdams, who scored nine points against the Bobcats earlier this season, is shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range this season.
Ohio will be happy to see that McAdams’ fellow 3-point threat and Bobcat killer, Jake Kretzer, will miss the tilt with the Bobcats with a concussion. He scored 10 points in the January 12 matchup between these teams including a contested 3-pointer in overtime that helped Akron to send the game into a second overtime period.
Ohio is nursing plenty of injuries itself. Forward and second leading scorer Maurice Ndour is currently battling a back injury but he should be able to play. Along with Ndour, forward T.J. Hall has been facing hamstring injury. Like Ndour, Hall will likely be on the court against the Zips.
The biggest injury for Ohio is Stevie Taylor’s leg fracture. The fracture, because it is in a non-weight bearing bone, is an issue of pain tolerance for Taylor. If he can handle the pain, he will play, like he did against Western Michigan for 10 minutes, scoring five points in that time. With that, Taylor is questionable for the game.
The team played better with Taylor on the floor Wednesday. It handled the ball with increased care, took better shots and just had an improved, overall flow on offensive with Taylor running the point. Taylor’s replacement, Javarez “Bean” Willis, often tried to force passes to players that weren’t open, resulting in four turnovers.
According to the current standings, Ohio will be the fifth seed in the MAC tournament, which means that it would have to win five games in six days to win the tournament and secure a berth to the NCAA Tournament. A win against Akron on Saturday would move the Bobcats up into a tie for the fourth seed, which would give them a bye to the MAC quarterfinals. Given the injuries for head coach Jim Christian’s squad, a win against Akron and the potential bye in the tournament would do wonders for Ohio.