Jeff Boals hadn’t notched a win against Bowling Green in three attempts as the head coach at his alma mater. Tommy Schmock took three losses in three games against the Falcons at his former school.
Schmock played a huge role in making sure both skids ended Tuesday night in the Convocation Center.
Buoyed by Schmock’s season-high 17 points, and a career-high 12 points from freshman forward A.J. Clayton, Ohio picked up its eighth straight win with an 85-78 victory over the visiting Falcons. The Bobcats (13-2, 4-0 MAC) remained perfect at home this season as well (9-0).
It was especially sweet for Schmock who, while at non-Division I University of Findlay, took three losses against BG in buy games/exhibitions early in the season. On Tuesday, he defended well, gave Ohio some needed punch at the 3-point line, and added seven rebounds and two assists without a turnover in a season-high 38 minutes.
Schmock was making his second start of the season, in place of Miles Brown (COVID protocol) for a second straight game.
“It feels pretty good, especially against that team. I’m pretty familiar with them. We played them every year at Findlay,” Schmock said. “I kind of owed them.”
Ohio owed the Falcons (8-7, 1-3 MAC) some payback in general. BG took three games from OU and Boals over the course of 2020; Tuesday’s win was the coach’s first at OU against the league rival.
That didn’t matter much to Boals. What did was the fact that the Bobcats closed out another close game in style, which has become their M.O. early in the MAC’s 20-game season.
“We’re finding ways to win and that’s the sign of a great team,” Boals said.
Ohio’s finishing move on Tuesday was doing damage at the foul line. The Bobcats hit 23 of 30 from the stripe for the game, and connected on 18 of 20 over the final 7:25.
Bowling Green never led, and Ohio held the lead for a full 39 minutes of game play. But, the Falcons closed to within 58-57 on Chandler Turner’s 3-pointer with 7:37 remaining.
The Bobcats responded with an 8-0 run, fueled by six free throws, and took its largest lead of the night at 75-65 with 2:22 left after Schmock bagged his season-high fourth 3-pointer.
“This team does a great job of staying locked in,” said Ohio forward Jason Carter, who notched a game-high 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting through a kaleidoscope of driving layups and mid-range jumpers.
“A lot of guys on this team have been in a lot of close games,” he added. “We know what it takes.”
Two Ohio starters – Ben Vander Plas and Ben Roderick – finished with six points apiece but struggled from the field and were a combined 0-7 from 3. But Schmock and Clayton (3 of 6 from 3) picked up the slack.
The game was tied just twice, at 2-2 and again 24-24 late in the first half. Clayton splashed home two 3-pointers to key an 8-5 spurt as Ohio held a 32-29 lead at the break. Such 3s are expected from Clayton, a 6-8 forward who checks in around 235 pounds.
“That’s just what he does,” Carter said. “He has all the tools to be the best player in this league. He’s just scratching the surface.”
Sears had a run of five straight 20-point games snapped after shooting 4 of 12 from the field. But he still tallied 19 points and six rebounds, and drew a whopping nine fouls from Bowling Green defenders. Already the MAC leader in free throw percentage, Sears hit 10 of 10 at the foul line with eight makes inside the final 6:06.
“He closed it out Mariano Riviera style,” Boals said.
Daeqwon Plowden and Myron Gordon had 18 points apiece to lead Bowling Green, which was -10 on the glass and out scored by 12 on the foul line. Brenton Mills added 13 points.
Ohio hits the road looking for nine in a row on Saturday with a 4:30 p.m. tip off at Central Michigan (2-12, 1-2 MAC).