Updated Fri, Mar 7, 2014 2:42 pm
With such a long history between Ohio and Miami, It only seems fitting that the Bobcats close their regular season out with a trip to Oxford Saturday for the Battle of the Bricks.
The matchup with Miami gives Ohio a chance to continue its strong play and get on a roll before the Mid-American Conference Tournament that begins next week. Ohio is coming off one of its more impressive wins of the season, as they defeated Bowling Green 72-61 on the road without Maurice Ndour and with Stevie Taylor playing limited minutes.
After dropping two straight games and losing control of their own destiny, the Bobcats could have easily rolled over and given up on the season. Instead of surrendering, Ohio regrouped and put forward one of the best team efforts of the season.
Ohio led for all but 1:34 of its game against the Falcons. Antonio Campbell stepped up and provided the team with valuable minutes in Ndour’s absence. The freshman forward posted a career-high 11 points to go along with four rebounds. Javarez “Bean” Willis played nearly the entire game at point guard and racked up 16 points and five assists.
The Bobcats also received a huge lift from senior leader Nick Kellogg, who poured in 25 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Now the Miami RedHawks (16-16, 8-9) await head coach Jim Christian’s squad. Ohio defeated Miami the first time these teams met, but it wasn’t easy for the Bobcats, overcoming a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the RedHawks 82-75.
In the first matchup, Ohio lagged behind shooters running off screens, giving Miami open looks in the first half. The rival RedHawks had no problem converting those looks either, shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. Ohio cannot afford to let Miami’s shooters get hot and confident once again if it wants to head into the MAC Tournament on a good note.
Travis Wilkins spearheaded Ohio’s comeback effort in the Feb. 8 matchup, posting 23 points. The ‘Cats used a 22-5 run to grab the lead and ultimately the game. In addition to Wilkins’ hot shooting, Ohio upped the energy level on the defensive end and began closing out on shooters. Ohio’s air tight defense held Miami to just 12.5 percent shooting in the second half of the game.
Will Felder, Miami’s leader, had 19 points in the game and must once again be a priority for Ohio. Felder averages 14.9 points per game and has been the only consistent scorer for a RedHawks squad that has had trouble scoring this season.
Ohio still has a chance at the fourth seed in the tournament, but needs a win against Miami and a Kent State victory over Akron. Even if Ohio cannot land the fourth seed, Ohio still has a chance to head into the conference tournament with some momentum. Neither of those can happen, though, if Ohio does not take care of Miami.
The Bobcats and RedHawks tip-off on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Oxford.