Game 3 Preview: Bobcats Take Aim at Third Straight

Ohio wing Ben Roderick (right) cuts off a screen from Jason Carter during the Bobcats’ exhibition win over Capital on Nov. 6. Roderick and the Bobcats take on Robert Morris on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Photo by Jason Arkley

Ohio will be looking more than to stay unbeaten on Monday night when Robert Morris invades the Convo for a 7 p.m. start. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and ESPN+. 

The Bobcats (2-0) will open the Kentucky Classic — an MTE even featuring OU, Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary’s and Kentucky — with the Colonials (0-2). Ohio continues the event, held at on-campus sites, on Friday at No. 10 Kentucky and then again on Nov. 22 at home against Mount St. Mary’s. 

Ohio has been sharp, in different ways, during the first week of the season. The Bobcats clicked on all cylinders offensively in the opener by beating Belmont. On Saturday night, the Bobcats didn’t make as many shots but shared the ball and defended well in winning at Cleveland State.

The task Monday is two-fold: Ohio has a quick turnaround to navigate, and find a way to beat a program it has never notched a win against.

“We got to be ready Monday,” Boals said in Cleveland. 

Long-time Bobcat fans are more than ready to see their team beat Robert Morris. The Colonials own a 4-0 edge against OU in the new century, built on a pair of back-to-back series signed by former head coach John Groce in the early 2010s. RMU leads the all-time series 6-4.

Robert Morris swept the first home-and-home series, 81-79 and 79-76 in OT, in 2010 and ‘11. The series came back, and the Colonials won 70-67 in the Convo in January of 2012, then again in Moon Township in December of the same year (84-76) against then new head coach Jim Christian.

Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole, now in his 12th season, has been there for all of them. But the Colonials’ transition to the Horizon League — Robert Morris switched from the Northeastern Conference (NEC) prior to last season — has been rocky at best. 

Robert Morris was just 4-15 last year, and saw a slew of internal strife and the mid-season transfer of its most productive player. The Colonials return just two starters from last season, and have nine new faces on the roster including transfers in Rasheem Dunn (St. John’s) and Ferron Flavors Jr. (Oklahoma State). RMU returns just 17.1 percent of its minutes from last season.

Robert Morris was picked to finish 10th (of 12) in the Horizon League preseason poll, and the early returns haven’t changed that expectation. RMU opened the year with a 69-59 loss at UCF, and then were blown out 100-60 at Kentucky on Friday night. Monday’s game in Athens will be the team’s third road test in six days.

Forward Kahliel Spear, a 6-7 forward, is the lone returning starter getting minutes, and the Colonials best interior presence; he’s averaging 10 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Dunn (6-2 guard, 9.5 points), Enoch Cheeks (a 6-3 guard, 6.0 ppg) and 5-11 guard Michael Green III (12 points vs Kentucky) have logged big minutes in a 4-out, 1-in approach.

It’s early, but Colonials haven’t been great about defending the arc. RMU ranks 290th nationally in effective FG% defense (57.5%) and allows opponents to shoot 38.3% (267th) from 3-point range.

That’s good news for Ohio, which has leaned heavily into the 3 during the first week. For the Bobcats, roughly 52 percent of their shots have come from long range and OU hits on 41.2% from 3 (42nd nationally). 

“We try to play inside out,” said Ohio guard Miles Brown, one of four starters averaging double figures. “Get the ball in the post, get the ball in the paint, and then look for those kick outs. 

“When we put the ball in their hands for the most part, they’ll make a play and find the open man.”

Sophomore PG Mark Sears leads Ohio with 21.0 points per game, and has hit 5 of 6 (83.3%) from long range. Forwards Jason Carter (14.0 ppg, 40.0% from 3) and Ben Vander Plas (14.0 ppg, 38.5% from 3) have been effective inside and out, and Brown (10.8 ppg, 40.0% from 3) give OU four starters all shooting 38 percent or better from the arc.

The one missing in that regard, so far, has been junior Ben Roderick. Considered the best 3-point shooter in the lineup, Roderick has hit just 4 of 14 (28.6%) from 3 so far.

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