By the time the Ohio Bobcats tipped off against Alcorn State on Saturday afternoon, almost all of Ohio's student population had left Athens for winter break. And for long stretches of the game, it seemed like members of the Bobcats team had left as well, at least mentally. But at the end of 40 minutes, the Bobcats were able to put enough good stretches together to pull ahead to a 66-55 win and even their record at 3-3.
Following two straight losses to two good teams, Ohio saw their matchup with Alcorn State as a chance to get back on the right track by manhandling a team with 1 win in 7 games. But it became increasingly clear in the later part of the first half that this would be no easy game, as Ohio struggles to shake the Braves and managed to lead at the half only because Khari Harley managed to sink a 3 at the buzzer.
The Braves were led by strong play from their forwards: sophomore Marquice Vance and Leantwan Luckett. They led Alcorn State with 12 and 15 points, respectively. The Bobcats saw strong play from seniors Maurice Ndour (team-high 20 points) and Stevie Taylor (10 points). Sophomore Antonio Campbell was perhaps Ohio's best player for the second consecutive week. He was a powerful presence in the paint, gobbling up rebounds and putting up high percentage shots within feet of the basket, giving him is second career double-double (his first was last week).
This first half got off to a slow start- it was 2 minutes and several possessions before Alcorn State's Tyrel Hunt made the game's first basket. Ohio soon took the lead but could never truly pull away, thanks to several turnovers and some weak defense that allowed the Braves to penetrate and pick up points in the lane.
Both teams shot worse in the second half: Ohio shot from the field, but Alcorn State's percentage dropped to . The Braves could not make their jumpshots, only hitting 2 in the game's final 20 minutes, but still remained within striking distance. With 10:35 left in the game, the score was tied 42 all. Then Ohio went on a 9-0 run, thanks to a pair of 3's by Ndour and Javarez Willis. But after Hunt nailed a couple of free throws, the Braves trailed 52-53 with 4:47 to play. The Bobcats responded by scoring 6 straight to increase their lead and never looked back. Over those last 5 minutes, the outscored their opponents 13-3.
It was a much-needed win, but not entirely reassuring. This week Ohio faces Evansville, one of the strongest teams in the Missouri Conference. A performance like today's will not be enough to beat a team of that caliber.