They may not be happy to be potentially playing five games in six days, but the No. 5 Ohio Bobcats didn't show any signs of weariness in taking down the No. 12 Ball State Cardinals at home Monday, 76-64 to open the 2014 MAC Tournament.
"We played hard, we were focused, played aggressively. We were unbelievably detailed in the game plan we put together" said coach Jim Christian. "We did everything the right way, we put great pressure on them right off the gate and obviously when we get out and run we're pretty good."
Though the outcome was never in doubt, the Cardinals did keep Ohio from running away with the game. The now 5-25 Cardinals did not give up on their season that easily.
Ohio jumped out of the gates ablaze in its shooting from the field. Coach James Whitford's attempts to calm his team with TO's did not work in the first half as Ohio raced to a 25-4 lead in just over eight minutes of basketball.
Ohio completely stymied the Ball State offense, mainly by putting Antonio Campbell on Majok Majok and by bringing Travis Wilkins over from the weak side to double. The Cardinal offense looked flustered and out of sorts for the first eight minutes of the game before finally finding some semblance of offense about nine minutes in.
Javarez "Bean" Willis was feeling it from the get-go, scoring 11 points in the first half, as did Wilkins.
The Bobcats' offense slowed after it extended its lead to 36-14 as Majok Majok and Franko House took over. Majok scored eight points in the half. Ohio initially made seven of its first 10 3-pointers, but missed its last five of the half with a 38-26 score heading into the locker room. BSU scored 12 of the last 14 points of the half.
As much as Ohio dominated the first 12 minutes of the first half, the 'Cats coasted a bit from there on, as Ball State fought to keep things interesting. The Cardinals kept its deficit mostly between the 11-15 point margin for much of the second half.
Though Ohio's play dropped off in the second half, Antonio Campbell did put in one of his best performances of his young career, scoring 10 points in the second half and 12 total.
"The development of Antonio Campbell, we all knew it was coming" said Christian. "We saw it in practice for the longest time. It was just a matter of time before he did it in a game."
Willis (15), Kellogg (17) and Wilkins (14) all finished in double figures as Maurice Ndour, Stevie Taylor and T.J. Hall all missed minutes due to injuries. The last three combined for 49 minutes of play between the three of them.
Ball State was able to at least keep the game respectable, with four Cardinals scoring in double figures. Zavier Turner led the team with 14 points.
Ohio's seniors played in what should be their last home game (barring some shot of an NIT appearance) Jon Smith exited with just under two minutes to a standing ovation, and the rest (minus Wilkins) left the court after a timeout.
The Bobcats get Miami in round two on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Cleveland.
Christian said about the Miami game: "We know how they're going to play. They're going to be play unbelievably hard. That's the way they played here, that's the way we played at their place."