Tommy Schmock and A.J. Clayton didn’t waste any time proving they were ready to help the Bobcats this season.
The Ohio University men’s basketball team unveiled its 2021-22 roster on Saturday afternoon, and took a bow for the MAC championship won in March, then dispatched Division III Capital 92-66 in an exhibition game at the Convocation Center.
As a contest it wasn’t much. As a celebration of returning to something feeling more like college basketball after last year’s COVID-influenced campaign, it was a smashing success.
“Great to see everyone in this room,” said third-year Ohio head coach Jeff Boals, referring to the postgame interview area that was unused all of last winter. “It’s a little weird. We haven’t done this in a long time.”
Schmock, a graduate student transfer from the University of Findlay, echoed the sentiment. Brought in for PG duties after Jason Preston decided to stay in the NBA draft, Schmock was terrific in his debut with 17 points in 17 minutes off the bench; he added three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“You get that first basket to go in and you hear that really loud crowd, it just felt back to normal,” said Schmock, who was a four-year starter at Findlay. “Last year with COVID, you never got to experience that. I really felt that today.”
Ohio also debuted a new floor design in the Convo, complete with faux-brick baseline areas and a massive state of Ohio outline in the middle of it. There were full complements of the band, cheer, and dance teams doing their thing. There were additional green lighting elements, and before the game OU unfurled a new of banners from the rafters to commemorate the MAC title and NCAA Tournament appearance from last season.
A crowd of 6,362 was announced. It was a symbolic way to close the book on last year, and open a new one for 2021-22.
“New process, new team, new journey,” Boals said.
To that end, the Bobcats replicated several successful elements with a different cast of characters. Schmock led four players in double figures as returning standout Ben Vander Plas (12 points), returning guard Miles Brown (11) and former Bobcat All-MAC performer Jason Carter (10) all had their moments.
Clayton, a 17-year-old freshman, finished with seven points in 17 minutes, but hit his first three shots for the seven-point burst in his first four minutes on the floor.
“To do what he’s been doing has been impressive. He’s proven he belongs.”
Ohio shot 63.3 percent overall, and dished 22 assists on 38 made field goals. No one took more than 9 shots, and that was Schmock — he was 7-of-9 off the bench.
Ryan Suever had 12 points and Joe Thompson chipped in 10 apiece for Capital, which shot just 37.3 percent overall and never led after the opening four minutes.
Sophomore Mark Sears started at PG as Ohio began life after Preston. Sears had nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes. Sears know the pressure for Ohio’s success this season begins with the PG duo.
“We just compete. Iron sharpens iron. We just continue to compete every day in practice and that will show up on the court,” Sears said. “The point guards they’re the quarterback of the team so that’s really important.”
Other things that stood out in the exhibition:
- The starting lineup included Sears, Brown, Ben Roderick, Vander Plas and Carter.
- Dwight Wilson remains sidelined recovering from surgery and there’s no timetable for his return yet.
- Guard Lunden McVay was out of the starting lineup after being an every game starter for most of the two previous years. He came in at the first media time out. “He missed a couple weeks with an injury. Nothing major. Good to have him back. He’s going to be a big part of what we do,” Boals said.
- Sophomore forward Sam Towns (6 points, 7 rebounds) joined McDay and Clayton in the first wave of subs off the bench.
- Schmock and sophomore center Colin Granger were the next in, and freshman Olumide Adelodun also entered early. OU played 11 players in the game’s first 11 minutes.
- Freshman forward IJ Ezuma (illness) and Wilson were the only players on the roster to not play.
- Boals coached the game injured, and will continue to do so. He said he’s suffered “a couple of cracked ribs” after an incident this week that he described as an “old age, stupidity kind of deal.”
Ohio opens the season on Tuesday night when Belmont comes to the Convo for a 7 p.m. start.