ATHENS, Ohio — Heading into Saturday’s tilt with the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, the Ohio Bobcats were looking to keep the winning ways going for the Mid-American Conference.
Only one team has lost their season opening game at this point in the MAC (sorry, Ball State), and the Bobcats didn’t want to kick off their season with an 0-1 record.
The SWAC, on the other hand, had only one team pick up a win on opening night (shoutout to Jackson State). On Saturday, the Bulldogs were looking to reverse the conference’s early-season fortunes and get their own season started on the right foot.
Out of the gate, the teams were neck and neck. Ohio closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a double-digit lead into the break, and wouldn’t trail throughout the entire second half. Alabama A&M cut the deficit down to five points as the second half was winding down, but were never able to overtake the Bobcats.
Ohio held down their home court with a 61-53 victory over Alabama A&M.
With 4:36 to play in the first half, Mohamed Sherif got a layup to fall that brought the Bulldogs to within one of the Bobcats, at 23-22. Those were the last points that the visitors would score in the opening half, as Ohio rattled off a 9-0 run to close the first frame.
Guard Teyvion Kirk scored five of the nine points for the home side, who took a 32-22 lead into the break.
Alabama A&M’s scoring drought would continue into the second half, as Ohio expanded their lead with a mini 5-0 run out of the gate. Gavin Block opened the second half with a three pointer for Ohio, who expanded their lead to 15 before the Bulldogs found the scoreboard.
As the second half moved along, the Bobcats maintained a double-digit cushion. Another jumper from Block, this time with 7:18 to play in the game, gave Ohio their largest lead of the game, at 19 points.
Just when it looked like the home side was going to run away with things down the stretch, the Bulldogs came storming back.
Following Block’s jumper, De’ederick Petty hit a jumper that kick-started a 12-0 run for the Bulldogs that cut the deficit down to just seven, at 53-46.
The Bulldogs managed to trim the deficit down to four points with under a minute to go, but weren’t able to completely overtake the Bobcats. Kirk and Kevin Mickle each hit a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the deal for Ohio.
Ohio held off a late charge from the Bulldogs, and kicked off their season with a 61-53 victory.
Mohamed Sherif led the way for the Bulldogs in the loss, recording 14 points and seven rebounds. Arthur Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds of his own.
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk scored a game-high 16 points to pace the attack for the Bobcats. Kevin Mickle, a transfer from the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, put up 10 points off the bench in his Bobcats’ debut.
The loss kicked off a five-game road swing to open the season for Alabama A&M (0-1). They face off against the Samford Bulldogs on Monday.
Following their win, Ohio (1-0) now heads to Charleston to take part in the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic. The Bobcats open up the event on Thursday against the Clemson Tigers.
– T. Bennett