The Bobcats proved little beyond the fact they’re not yet a finished product in an 81-67 loss on Sunday to the Marshall Thundering Herd at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, W.Va.
Ohio (4-2) never led after the opening minutes, and spent the majority of the second half down by double figures to the Herd (4-0), which has won seven straight games dating back to last season.
It was a sharp dose of reality for Ohio, which for the first time this season wasn’t able to play its preferred style of game. Marshall dictated the terms, particularly after halftime, and handed the Bobcats a humbling setback in what could be OU’s the final nonconference bout of the season.
Marshall forced the tempo, forced turnovers and got easy buckets in transition. Ohio junior point guard Jason Preston was merely good, instead of great, and the Bobcats never had a shot down the stretch.
Marshall forced Ohio into 17 turnovers and, more importantly, turned them into a 20 points – the most given up in that category this year by the Bobcats.
“Give (Marshall) a lot of credit, they deserved to win the game and we didn’t deserve to,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said on postgame radio. “The biggest thing was the turnovers. A lot of unforced turnovers that led to points for them.”
Preston finished with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, but also stumbled into a season-high six turnovers while playing a season-high 40 minutes.
In some ways Preston was overshadowed by Marshall PG Jarrod West, a senior, who finished with 14 points and six assists. But West was able to get the Herd organized and on the attack; the Herd shot 41.2 percent in the first half, but an unfathomable 76.2 percent in the second.
Dwight Wilson was strong again inside for Ohio, and he collected his third straight double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. When things went well for OU, it was when Wilson was heavily involved.
“Once we got the ball inside…it kind of alleviated some of that pressure,” Boals said.
But Ohio junior forward Ben Vander Plas had nine points, and five turnovers, after a sluggish first half because of foul trouble. Sophomore guard Lunden McDay had just four points in 38 minutes after shooting 2-of-10.
Ohio also played, essentially, a third straight game without sophomore win Ben Roderick (knee). Freshman Sam Towns started in his place for a second straight game, and finished with 1 point and 1 rebound in 16 minutes.
Ohio’s last lead of the day came with 15:53 left in the first half at 8-4 after Wilson’s dunk. But the Herd answered with a 7-0 run and never trailed again.
Marshall used a 12-2 run in the first half to gain some space before settling for a 35-33 lead at the break.
In the second half, OU would get no closer. Taevion Kinsey, who powered the Herd with a game-high 28 points, hit his first 3-pointer of the season as part of another 12-2 run that turned a 50-45 deficit with 13 minutes left into a commanding 62-47 position five minutes later.
Kinsey hit 10 of 13 shots overall, and overwhelmed the Bobcat defense with his ability to get to the rim, get to the foul line, and get by on-ball defenders.
“It’s a learning process, it’s a growth process,” Boals said. “We’ll have to continue to get better. Just learn from it.”
At the moment, that learning will take place on the practice floor. Ohio isn’t scheduled for another game until Tuesday, Dec. 22 when the ‘Cats travel to Akron for the Mid-American Conference opener.
Boals will spend the days between now and then trying to get Roderick back into the lineup, and trying to find another game to fill some of the time in the interim.
The Bobcats showed Saturday they could use the work.
““We’ll take a look at it, what makes sense,” Boals said. “We’ll take a look at what’s out there…and see what’s the best thing for our program.”