Ohio Brought the Hustle In 76-67 Win Over Mercer

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears came to the Convo looking to knock off the 4-1 'Cats but were denied. Ohio set a season best for free throw percentage, going 27-32.

It was a win many coaches would be proud of. You'll take it every night. Ohio defeated Mercer mostly on what might be called hustle plays, winning 76-67.

Ohio grabbed 18 offensive boards, caused 14 turnovers with ball pressure, took several charges in the second half, and just outworked the visiting Bears.

Mercer jumped out to a quick 18-9 lead, but it didn't take long for the Bobcats to grab a lead, going up 25-23 thanks to aggressive play.

Coach Jim Christian said: "The one thing about our group...they get on each other in a positive way and they help each other. They do not get down. And they encourage each other to play harder and harder..."

Jon Smith poured in 16 points, just one shy of his career high, and grabbed nine boards, seven of which were offensive.

Maurice Ndour had one of the first of what could potentially be many 20-10 games. He scored 23 points and pulled down 11 boards. Ndour hit several long threes including one to give Ohio a 28-25 lead late in the first half, a lead they would never relinquish.

T.J. Hall stepped in as a hybrid big man/wing and made several hustle plays, scoring 11 points. He took some of the minutes that would have gone to Treg Setty, who sat out with sickness.

"I think our Seniors won this game for us. As great as Maurice played, Stevie played a good game, our seniors won the game for us. T.J. down the stretch...those were two huge plays. T.J. more than anyone has the ability to create shots around the basket."

Ohio went on to score several more buckets before the Bears decided to fight back. Including the Ndour 3-pointer, on successive possessions, Ohio scored: on a Wilkins elbow jumper, a Jon Smith dunk off of a Stevie Taylor assist on the fast-break, and another Ndour three from the top of the key. It was 35-25 when Mercer hit a few buckets and sent things into the half at 39-30.

The two squads both put up 37 points in the second half, but it was Ohio's free throw shooting that stole the show. The Bobcats shot 27-32 from the line, much better than they have done all year.

Ohio extended its lead to as much as 20 with a 57-37 score with 13:17 left in the second half. The Bears did not go away and cut the gap to as little as eight with just under three minutes remaining but Ohio responded.

The Bobcats won in spite of being outshot 43.1 percent compared to 37.9 percent.

The Bears' Langston Hall hoisted up 15 shots and paced Mercer in scoring with 24 points.

Ohio brings Evansville comes to the Convo on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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