Thanks to a hot shooting day from Athens' darling Jaaron Simmons and his supporting cast, the Ohio Bobcats avoided a 1-4 MAC start and collected an 82-64 win over the Western Michigan Broncos.
Remember Simmons, the lethal 3-point shooter who is feared across arenas, sports, and even galaxies? Okay, maybe that's not exactly accurate, but you wouldn't have known that watching tonight. A handful of 3-pointers with both coming in short bursts of productivity helped Ohio to take the lead late in the first half and extend its lead in the second. The latter scenario came with Ohio up one, 49-48. A 3-pointer, a floater, and yet another dagger from deep made it a 9-point ballgame at 57-48 with 8:02 to go.
"I saw the first one go in so I shot another one. And then I saw the second one go in, so I shot another one," said Simmons. Simple words. Simple Jaaron.
Simmons showcased his leadership by stepping up to take shots when he knew he was on his game. He didn't over-do it either. Simmons concluded the night with 24 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 turnovers (though most of those TO's came in garbage time).
The Ohio defense came up big in that stretch as well, forcing contested jumpers and keeping WMU from getting deep into the paint, something that the Broncos were able to do in the first half. After a start that suggested maybe more was to come, Thomas Wilder finished with 21 points on the day and had helped Western out to a 9-point lead at 27-18 in the first via a 14-0 run. WMU was playing with more energy than a lethargic-looking Ohio team at that point. Luckily for the Bobcats, they picked up some energy in the form of a Gavin Block 3-pointer and two Simmons treys, and rode that wave into a 35-31 halftime lead.
In the second, WMU battled back and worked its way to several ties but the combined efforts of the Bobcats carried them to that 49-48 advantage where things ultimately took off.
"It took a while to shake our offense around enough to make what we did... said coach Saul Phillips. "But is sure is fun to watch the ball fly around the gym and us get open looks of passes."
Block's energetic play (seriously, the leg must be just fine), helped keep Ohio afloat in the first and afoot in the second. Block tallied 16 points and 3 assists in the win with a pair of daggers from deep. Antonio Campbell had himself a good night, contributing 16 points and 16 rebounds on a night when Ohio controlled the boards 45-32. Kenny Kaminski also sent in 4 3-balls on his way to 14 points. Mike Laster benefited from Jordan Dartis being out of the lineup and Treg Setty being sick. Laster scored 7 points whiling playing with intensity.
The second half featured an offensively superior Bobcat team filling it up, as they shot 57.1 percent in in the second half while WMU managed to shoot at a 30.8 percent clip in the latter half. The 'Cats, who came in as the worst team in the conference in terms of 3-point percentage defense (40 percent on the season), held the Broncos to a 4-18 mark from distance on the night. Meanwhile the Bobcats went 11-20 from beyond the arc. Tucker Haymond ended with 15 points while Drake Lamont tossed in 8, but two came in the first half. Ohio did turn the ball over 14 times to WMU's 7, but for the night, the 'Cats will take it.
Phillips mentioned he was unhappy with Ohio's foul troubles in allowing the Broncos to attempt 26 tries from the line, but seemed pleased with the defense otherwise.
"The MAC pick'em contest is going to be difficult this year," Phillips said as an addendum to his opening remarks. Oh man, it sure is.
WMU sits at 7-11 and 1-4 in the MAC now, while Ohio jumps to 11-6 and 2-3 to start week three of MAC play.