Dwight Wilson III isn’t wasting a single opportunity, and you can say the same thing about the Bobcats as a whole.
Wilson produced his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and made all seven of his shots from the field to help Ohio to an 83-69 win over Central Michigan at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Tuesday.
The win was the fourth in a row for suddenly streaking Ohio (11-6, 7-4 Mid-American Conference), which also snapped a four-game slide in games at CMU. It was the Bobcats’ first win at Mount Pleasant since 2013.
“They’re doing a great job of preparing to win, and then going out and executing at a high level,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said in a postgame radio interview.
And few have executed the finishing of a shot better than Wilson, the broad-shoulder center with a pillow-y soft shooting touch around the rim.
Wilson converted each of his short-range offerings against the Chippewas (6-11, 2-8 MAC), utilizing hook shots, quick bankers off the glass and flat-footed floaters. By hitting each of his seven shots, Wilson picked up his third game this season where he didn’t miss a field goal.
“We should probably get the ball to him more…his touch is unbelievable,” Boals said.
For the season, Wilson has made 115 field goals on 166 shots. His 69.3 percent shooting percentage, which climbed 1.4 percent on Tuesday, ranks second in the entire country.
And the Bobcats were far from a one-man show, or a one-trick pony. Six player hit double figures for Ohio, including Jason Preston who matched Wilson with his own fourth double-double of the season thanks to 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Fellow starters Ben Vander Plas (13 points), Lunden McDay (12) and Ben Roderick (12) all had their moments, and freshman guard Marc Sears (11 points) was particularly effective off the bench as part of the ‘closing’ lineup Boals used.
“His defense and free throws were big down the stretch,” the coach said.
Ohio hit 28 of 35 shots from 2-point range (80 percent) to more than make up for a 6-of-25 effort from 3-point range. Central Michigan never got on track and shot just 38.3 percent overall, while Ohio held a substantial edge on the glass (38-26) and limited the Chips to just six offensive rebounds – or half of their usual average.
Defense and rebounding, plus balanced offense? Boals said everything is falling into place for OU.
“That’s been the key and the recipe the last four games,” he said.
Travon Broadway Jr. piled up a game-high 26 points for the Chips, who mustered 12 steals and forced OU into an unsightly 17 turnovers. Caleb Huffman added 17 points and Meikkel Murray chipped in 10.
But if Ohio didn’t turn the ball over, the shots were open, and – except from long range – always on the mark.
CMU only led once in the first half, when it scored the first four points. The Bobcats caught up, and snapped a 9-9 tie with a 12-5 spurt capped by McDay’s steal-and-layup combo with 10:56 left.
Ohio led by as many as 12 points in the half, with the last coming at 32-20 on Wilson’s bucket inside, but had to settle for just a 38-34 advantage at the break.
The Chips won the opening minutes of the second half, and took their final lead at 44-42 with 16:56 remaining on Broadway’s jumper.
Roderick kick-started Ohio’s response with five quick points. Vander Plas hit a 3 and Roderick scored on a reverse to make it a 10-0 run and the Bobcats never trailed again.
OU extended the run out to 24-4 over an 10-minute stretch, and led 66-48 after Wilson scored off an offensive rebound with just under seven minutes remaining
CMU managed to cut the margin back to 71-64 with 3:40 left, but the closing crew – with Sears and Preston scoring five points each – used a 10-0 run to wrap it up.
There’s little doubt Ohio is playing its best basketball of the conference season at the moment, and thanks to the MAC will get a chance to continue to ride that momentum on Saturday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the MAC announced it was moving Ohio’s schedule game at Bowling Green – set for Feb. 20 – up on the calendar to Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Stroh Center. On Monday, the conference announced that Ohio’s home date for Saturday with Eastern Michigan was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Eagles.
The game switch will benefit OU now, and later. The Bobcats won’t break up their run of good play now, and it breaks up the potential for three straight road games over a five-day span later this month.
“It’ll help us hopefully down the stretch,” Boals said.