OU faces visiting Ball State after postponement

The Bobcats traveled all the way to DeKalb, and all they got was a shoot-around.

Well, that and a few extra days to stew over a disappointing home loss to Kent State.

Ohio (7-6, 3-4 Mid-American Conference) saw Tuesday’s scheduled game at Northern Illinois postponed after several positive tests for COVID-19 popped up within the Huskies’ program. The postponement didn’t come until OU had already made the trip.

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals will try to get the Bobcats back to .500 in the MAC on Friday night when Ball State invades the Convo. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics/Colin Mayr

OU head coach Jeff Boals said the Bobcats took an extended shoot-around, tried to deal with the first day of classes remotely, and then flew back a few hours earlier than expected. What he couldn’t find was a solution for was a way to address the lingering resentment following Saturday’s 89-79 home loss to the Golden Flashes, when the Bobcats were mauled on the glass and pushed around.,

“You want to get back out there and play as soon as you can,” Boals said Thursday. “Mentally, it would be good to get back it quickly.”

As for the last-minute postponement? Welcome to basketball in the age of COVID.

“Control what you can control,” Boals said. “That game isn’t happening. That’s just the basketball we’re living in right now.

“Do what you do, reinforce what you do, and move on to the next one.”

The next one is Friday night. Ohio will host Ball State (6-6, 4-3 MAC) in the Convo for a 7 p.m. start. The game will air live on CBS Sports Network.

The Cardinals, too, are anxious to get back on the floor. Ball State took a humbling 81-71 loss at Miami on Tuesday. Guards Ish El-Amin and K.J. Walton each had 17 points and shot a combined 9-of-20 from the floor, but the rest of the roster hit just 13 of 31.

The game also represents the first rematch of the conference slate for Ohio, thanks to Tuesday’s postponement. OU beat the Cardinals 78-68 in Muncie on Jan. 2. The victory snapped a three-game slide and represented one of the Bobcats’ best defensive efforts of the conference slate.

Wing Ben Roderick had a game-high 20 points and six 3-pointers for Ohio, and freshman PG Mark Sears – playing for the then injured Jason Preston – had a breakout game with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Ohio finished strong, with an 18-8 closing over the last 7:21, to win it.

“We disrupted what they were doing,” Boals said. “We didn’t foul them. We were really efficient (defensively) in playing the gaps.”

The Cardinals will have a deeper rotation as they are giving 11 players double-digit minutes. Ohio is operating with a seven-player rotation.

In part, Boals has kept the rotation small in an effort to improve the team’s defense. The Bobcats started the week ranked 11th in both FG and 3-point percentage defense.

“I like what we’re doing offensively,” Boals said. “Our problem is on the other end.”

Friday will also be the third game back for Preston, who missed four straight games – all conference bouts – with injury. Besides defense, getting Preston to be more assertive is something Boals hopes to see.

“We’re trying to get him to be more aggressive,” Boals said. “He’s always just trying to make the right play.

“But sometimes an early shot for him is better than the shot we’ll get later in the clock,” he added. “It’s a fine line…but can’t pass up an open shot.”

It’s another swing game for OU, which sits in eighth in the MAC standings. A win would essentially allow OU to pass Ball State in the standings.

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