Saul Phillips and the Ohio Bobcats kicked off their very anticipated 2016-2017 season with a 77-67 win over reigning SWAC Champions Southern Jaguars. It wasn’t an easy win for Ohio, but they were able to control the game for the second half en route to the victory. Here are the five things we learned from inside the Convocation Center on Saturday.
1. Ohio struggled with Southen’s Zone defense
The Bobcats got off to real slow start against the Jaguars, largely in part to Southern’s zone defense. Ohio had seven turnovers in the first half, with most of them coming in the first five minutes of the game. Though the Bobcats went into the locker room at halftime with a 42-38 lead, Ohio wasn’t getting enough cutters to break the zone. Whether it was a 2-3 or a 3-2 zone, Southern was able frustrate Ohio for most of the game. It wasn’t until Ohio started pushing the tempo and force Southern out of position that got some open looks.
2. Doug Taylor can fill Tony Campbell’s shoes
Campbell only played ten minutes in the first half after getting two fouls within the first two minutes of the game. When Campbell was sitting on the bench, Taylor had three points and six rebounds. The stats may not say much, but it was the way Taylor was asserting himself in the paint and passing the ball out that was worth noting. His only field goal of the first half came off a put-back that killed a Southern run. Campbell is the go-to man for Ohio down low, but Taylor can fill his shoes if Campbell gets in foul trouble. “He [Taylor] made some plays for us today,” Phillips said after the game. “I have a lot of confidence in him. His job right now is to be ready to come in when there are situations like that [Campbell foul trouble] and he did really well tonight.”
3. Saul Phillips was mixing his first rotation with his second rotation
It was noticeable early, but Phillips was experimenting with different lineups to combat Southern’s zone. With Jaaron Simmons and Campbell struggling with foul trouble early in the game, it gave valuable playing time to Rodney Culver, Jason Carter, Mike Laster and Taylor. With Carter, Culver and Jordan Dartis working together, Ohio was able to push the tempo of the game and get nice, easy looks at the basket. Phillips said it last week after the win over Rio, but knowing he has quality in depth on this team will be huge for the Bobcats for the entire season.
4. The Freshmen are showing plenty of confidence early in the season
Culver and Carter introduced themselves to the Bobcat fans last weekend with dominating performances in the scrimmage versus Rio Grande, but they showed that they are ready for the big time after the win versus Southern on Saturday. Culver and Carter combined for 11 points and six rebounds on 29 minutes of playtime. They aren’t filling up the stat sheet, but with Simmons, Dartis, Campbell and Gavin Block in front of them, they don’t need to. They played very well defensively and Culver had a massive put-back one-handed slam worthy of being on SportCenter’s Top 10 plays.
5. The Bobcats are comfortable playing from behind
The Bobcats only led for 56 seconds in the first half, but when they took the lead before halftime, they didn’t look back as they lead for the entire second half. Despite their struggles on offense for the majority of the first half, Ohio didn’t force the ball or force any bad shots. The pressure and emotion of starting the season at home didn’t get to the Bobcats and they were able to keep their composure for the first half. “We have a lot of belief in ourselves as a team and we never think we are out of it,” Phillips said. “We drafted them for most of the first half, be we were all calm at halftime.”
The Bobcats have a quick turnaround as the welcome Sam Houston State into the Convo on Monday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.