There are bad starts, and then there was the way the Bobcats began their game at LSU on Wednesday night.
Ohio missed its first 12 shots, gave up a 14-0 run to open the game, and trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half. It left a huge hole that the Bobcats — to their credit — climbed out of.
But with nothing left after that effort, LSU pulled away again in the second half for a 66-51 win at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La.
“When you bury yourselves by that much, it takes a lot of energy to get back into it,” said Ohio head coach Jeff Boals in postgame radio interview.
Ohio (5-2) never led after the early onslaught — a first for the Bobcats this season. LSU (8-0) hounded the Bobcats throughout with a defense that was equal parts tenacity, long-reaching, tough, and relentless.
The Bobcats were held to just 26.5% shooting overall. If that wasn’t dreadful enough, Ohio converted just 6 of 32 shots (18.8%) from 2-point range. The Tigers piled up seven blocked shots and 11 steals.
“We’re going to be happy with a lot of the looks we got,” Boals said. “But they’re elite defensively.”
Tari Eason had a game-high 20 points, on 6 of 9 shooting with a handful of dunks, to lead LSU. Darius Days collected 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Ben Vander Plas had 12 points and seven rebounds for Ohio before fouling out with just over two minutes to go. Jason Carter added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Mark Sears added 11 points.
Vander Plas got all his points in a barrage of four 3-pointers in six minutes as part of a 15-2 run for the Bobcats to open the second half. His fourth triple gave Ohio its first tie of the night at 37-37 with 14:07 remaining. It was as good as it got for OU.
LSU responded with a 6-0 run, that became a 10-2 surge, that then blossomed into a 21-7 stampede for a 56-44 lead with four minutes after. After climbing all the way back to tie it, Ohio was outscored 29-14 over the last 14 minutes.
“We’ve learned you’ve got to play 40 minutes. The margin for error in these types of games is so small,” Boals said.
The Tigers struggled in some aspects, with 17 turnovers and a 4-of-18 shooting effort from 3-point range. But LSU also had its defense to fall back on.
LSU blitzed the Bobcats with a 9-0 run in the game’s first three minutes capped by Brandon Murray’s fast-break dunk.
The Tigers upped the lead to 14-0- before Ohio dented the scoreboard, on Carter’s putback at the 11:24 mark. LSU led by as many as 18 points, at 29-11 with 5:05 left in the half on Days’ bucket inside.
Ohio hit three straight 3-pointers in a 90-second span late in the half to pull to within 29-20 but Days scored five points in the final 30 seconds to forge a 34-22 lead at the half.
Ohio played the game short-handed as junior guard Lunden McDay did not make the trip. During the pregame radio broadcast, Ohio announced the guard is “out indefinitely for personal reasons.” McDay also missed Ohio’s home win over Concordia on Friday, Nov. 26.