FOLLOW OHIO MEN’S BASKETBALL: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Led by a career-high 28 points from freshman guard AJ Brown, the fifth-seeded Ohio men’s basketball team (19-13) opened the 2023 Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 90-70, victory over fourth-seeded Ball Sate (20-12) Thursday afternoon (March 9) inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Overall, Ohio shot 48.5 percent from the field, 44.0 percent from three and were 13-of-16 from the line, while Ball State shot 40.3 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from three and were 14-of-17 from the line. Ohio grabbed 45 rebounds to Ball State’s 30. Ohio forced 13 turnovers and scored 16 points off them, while the Bobcats also scored 46 bench points.
Individually, AJ Brown (Orlando, Fla.) scored 28 points, going 10-of-16 from the field, 5-of-10 from three and 3-of-3 from the line. Junior guard Jaylin Hunter (Manchester, Conn.) scored 13 points and dished out four assists, while graduate student forward Dwight Wilson III (Tallahassee, Fla.) scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Elmore James (Cleveland, Ohio) added 11 points, while senior guard DeVon Baker (Dayton, Ohio) added nine points.
Ball State won the tip and got on the board first with a layup. Ohio tied the game at 2-2 after a layup from Wilson III. After Ball State went up seven, Wilson III got another bucket to cut the deficit to five. However, Ball State would take a 10-4 lead into the first media timeout. Out of the timeout, free throws from James and senior forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) cut the Ohio deficit to three. After a layup from Ball State put them back up five, AJ Brown and the Cardinals traded baskets to give Ball State the 14-9 lead. Ohio then went on a 7-0 run with a layup from sophomore forward AJ Clayton (Roseville, Ohio), a jumper from Baker and a three from AJ Brown to give Ohio its first lead of the day with 11:52 remaining in the half.
Another three from Baker put Ohio up five, before Ball State stopped the run with a three. After Ball State cut the Ohio lead to two, a 6-0 run from Ohio put the Bobcats eight, forcing Ball State to burn a 30-second timeout with 8:36 remaining in the half. After a free throw from Ball State cut the Ohio lead to seven, a second-chance three from James and a steal and a layup from Hunter gave the Bobcats a 32-22 lead with 7:04 remaining in the half.
Out of the timeout, free throws from Hunter and a three from senior guard Miles Brown (Rochester, N.Y.) put Ohio up 37-22 before Ball State stopped the run with a layup. After AJ Brown and the Cardinals traded points, Ohio went on a 10-run that was capped by a three from AJ Brown, putting Ohio up 50-26 with 3:27 remaining in the half. After Ohio went up 52-26 on free throws from AJ Brown, Ball State went on a 6-2 run over the final 90 seconds of the half, sending Ohio to the locker room with the 54-32 lead.
At the half, Ohio shot 58.8 percent from the field, 38.5 from three and were 9-of-11 from the line, while Ball State shot 40.7 percent from the field, 28.6 from three and were 8-of-10 from the line, Ohio outrebounded Ball State, 21-11, while Ohio forced eight turnovers and scored 13 points off those turnovers.
Individually, AJ Brown led with 17 points, going 6-of-9 from the field, and grabbing four rebounds, Baker added nine points, while Wilson III scored eight points and grabbed four boards and James scored seven points.
Ohio opened the second half with a 6-0 run with three points from Wilson III and a three from Hunter. Hunter and the Cardinals then traded baskets before a layup from James gave Ohio the 64-37 lead. After another three from Hunter, a jumper from AJ Brown, gave him a new career-high and put Ohio up 69-39 with 14:39 remaining in the game. Right out of the timeout, AJ Brown drained another three, before a 6-0 run from Ball State cut the Ohio lead to 72-45. A jumper from Clayton stopped the run, however the Cardinals would get three more points, cutting the deficit to 74-48 at the under-12 media timeout.
Out of the timeout, two more threes from AJ Brown and a jumper from James continued to increase the Ohio lead, with the Bobcats taking an 83-56 lead with 7:31 remaining in the game. Out of the timeout, Ball State went on a 7-2 run to cut the Ohio lead to 85-63 with 3:54 left in the game. Out of the timeout, a three from Clayton put Ohio up 88-66 with 2:09 remaining. Despite a few more baskets from Ball State, Ohio would ultimately secure the 90-70 victory.
For Ball State, Payton Sparks scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Demarius Jacobs scored 11.
Up next, the Bobcats will take on No. 1 Toledo in the MAC Semifinals. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. on CBS Sports Network inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
COURTESY OHIO ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS