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Slow start doesn't stop Ohio from winning 5th straight

Bobcats run away with blowout win despite early deficit

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Even a slow road start could not cool off Ohio on Saturday afternoon at Central Michigan.

Despite falling into a big early hole, the Bobcats dominated the middle of the game and ran away with their fifth straight victory, 76-59, at McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan scored the game’s first 12 points, but from the point of its biggest lead of 23-10 near the midway point of the first half, to Ohio’s biggest lead of 62-39 close to the middle of the second half, the Bobcats held a 52-16 advantage.

“Give our guys credit, they adjusted and played a great game the rest of the way,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said.

AJ Clayton led five Bobcats in double figures with 18 points. Jaylin Hunter had 14 points, six assists and six steals – all of those in the first half – and Miles Brown finished with 12 points and five rebounds. DeVon Baker and AJ Brown joined Clayton as big bench contributors with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“We all came off the bench and we were like, ‘We need to pick it up,’” Clayton said. “We need to get it going and get some energy from us.’”

Ohio (16-11, 8-5 Mid-American Conference) did not get on the board until a steal and layup from Hunter more than five minutes into the game. Central Michigan (10-17, 5-9 MAC) took its biggest lead, 23-10, on a Brian Taylor 3-pointer at the 10:27 mark.

Hunter scored in the paint to start the huge momentum swing. Clayton followed with a 3-pointer, and after a trey by Reggie Bass for Central Michigan, Miles Brown hit from deep for Ohio. Hunter connected from long range and then had another steal and layup to bring the Bobcats to within three.

Markus Harding made a layup for the Chippewas, but Hunter hit two free throws and then assisted a Miles Brown 3-pointer after another steal, tying the game at 28.

“[Hunter] was really good,” Boals said. “When he goes, we’ve gone. He played as consistently as anybody on both ends of the floor.”

A Dwight Wilson dunk put Ohio on top for the first time, and Clayton connected from long range, with Miles Brown following with another 3-pointer to cap a run of 13 straight Bobcats points. They led 38-30 at the break.

It was more of the same in the second half. With Ohio leading 42-33, Clayton and Hunter hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Bobcats eventually took their biggest lead of 62-39 on an AJ Brown 3-pointer with 11:20 remaining. Ohio cruised from there.

Clayton, who had scored just 11 points in has last four games combined, went 4 of 7 from long range.

“I had a wide open first shot on the wing, and once I hit that, the confidence goes up,” Clayton said.

The Bobcats were 13 of 23 from long range as a team, including Miles Brown going 4 of 5. Ohio shot 49.0% despite missing their first nine attempts, including three 3-pointers.

Wilson scored nine points with three rebounds, leaving him one shy of 1,000 boards in his career.

Bass led the Chippewas with 22 points, while Taylor adding 16 points and Harding 12 points.

Boals said the Bobcats need to continue to work to continue their winning ways.

“We’re not good enough to sit there and feel good about yourself,” he said. “You cruise and you’ll get beat.”

Ohio faces Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Convo.

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