We've seen this story before: Ohio sprints out to a sizable halftime lead against a "technically" inferior team, only to give up said lead in the second half and have put in some extra work to secure the win.
Call it déjà vu, call it a rivalry game, but Saul Phillips and company are content to call it a win.
Ohio (18-8, 9-5) held off a ferocious second half charge from a short-handed Miami squad (9-18, 3-11) to come away with a 76-64 win.
The RedHawks ripped off an 18-3 run halfway through the second half, largely thanks to much improved play on the offensive end. Off-ball movement improved, passing was quicker, and Ohio appeared to be just a step slower during the run. Miami's Dion Wade played a big part in the run, sinking a handful of 3-pointers and eventually finishing with a team-high 16 points.
A Jordan Dartis 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes remaining to stopped the bleeding and allowed Ohio to work its way past Miami. Like we've seen before, the usual suspects picked up the slack when Ohio had its feet held to the fire.
Tony Campbell and Jaaron Simmons shined the brightest and drove the Ohio engine late. Campbell picked up his 14th double-double of the season, to the tune of 16 points and 20 rebounds, while Simmons was in a rhythm from all over the court, finishing with a game-high 25 points, four assists, and no turnovers.
Gavin Block appeared to be on his way to a game-changing performance after a 12-point first half, but cooled down significantly and finished with 14.
Miami's second half run is even more remarkable when considering the RedHawks dressed only nine players. Suspensions and injuries limited Miami's options, especially when Rod Mills briefly left because of a leg injury in the first half, forcing the RedHawks to dig deep into their bench.
"In a weird way, at times, it's a little bit easier (to manage)," Miami head coach John Cooper said, regarding the team's lack of depth.
The game's early proceedings indicated Miami's lack of depth would be a big problem. Ohio sliced through Miami's zone defense early and often, ripping off a 19-5 run to start the game. The Bobcats played especially tight defense and didn't allow Miami to generate many decent looks.
Ohio began to struggle when the pace of the game slowed down late in the first half, though Simmons and Campbell disagreed on the game's pace.
"I didn't feel like it was that slow," Campbell said.
"Oh, it was definitely that slow," Simmons said with a chuckle.
Ohio head coach Saul Phillips sided with Simmons and noted how it felt like Ohio was not playing efficiently, despite 41 first half points.
"It's hard to cause separation when a team goes that deep in the shot clock," Phillips said. "It felt like what they needed to do."
Ohio's fifth straight win pulls the 'Cats to within one game behind Akron (21-6, 10-3) for the overall conference lead. Life may get better for the Bobcats with Kenny Kaminski set to come back as soon as Feb. 23 against Bowling Green, according to Phillips.
With the 'Cats trending up, Phillips has discovered a new-found confidence for the 'Cats.
"At times this year, I thought we were a year away from being where we want to be, but that's silly talk now."