Published Sat, Jan 14, 2012 9:11 pm Dateline
Updated Sun, Jan 15, 2012 5:14 pm
The Ohio Bobcats may feel like they’re in a bad dream, just waiting for someone to come along and wake them up. With its second conference loss coming at the hands of Akron Saturday afternoon, 68-63, Ohio is looking for a way to right the ship.
The Bobcats led for most of the game, but allowed their play to unravel in the final four minutes of the contest. A three-point basket from Akron’s Alex Abreu with 3:58 left to go in the game gave Akron a 59-57 lead. That was the last time Ohio sniffed a lead in the Zips’ march to victory.
Emotions ran on high toward the end of the game as they do in many a close contest. D.J. Cooper was tagged with a technical foul along with Akron’s Zeke Marshall and Quincy Diggs with just 33 seconds to play. This was during the middle of Akron’s game-ending 13-6 run.
Along with the technicals, Walter Offutt was called for an intentional foul for restricting Nikola Cvetinovic’s clear path. Despite all that, Offutt doesn’t think his teammates let their emotions get out of hand.
“Maybe [we lost our cool] a little bit,” said Offutt, “but we’re going to learn from this and continue to play basketball.”
Contributing to Ohio’s frustration, Akron planted its flag proudly in the paint, wreaking havoc on Ohio’s big men. By game’s end, Ohio’s frontcourt had been toppled. Marshall, listed at seven feet tall, towered over the Bobcat forwards and finished the game with a game-high 17 points. To that, Marshall added six rebounds and Ohio was outrebounded by 11.
Ohio lost the rebound battle, but certainly didn’t lose in the foul column; perhaps not the statistical category in which Ohio wanted to come out on top. Starters Jon Smith and Ivo Baltic along with sixth man Reggie Keely all fouled out of the game. Offutt also fouled out of the game. Keely and Smith played just 20 minutes combined. Not surprisingly, the majority of Ohio’s foul trouble came trying to handle Marshall, who said he received some advice from the officials.
“The ref talked to me about the stuff I do to prevent people from fouling me,” Marshall said. “I usually try to keep people’s arms off of me when they reach and do some small things. He told me to stop doing that and he would start calling fouls.”
Fouls seemed to be the story of the game. The whistle was blown 51 times total between the two teams. Ohio had 30 of those fouls and the Zips shot an astounding 44 free throws. The Bobcats’ head coach John Groce says, however, it was a testament to how tough his men played.
“It was really a difficult game to play with 51 fouls being called,” said Groce, “but I was proud of our guys’ toughness. I was really proud of their effort. We really stuck together.”
Once again, Ohio found itself with good effort, but a lack of execution. At half, Ohio’s shooting game appeared to be healing. A three-point buzzer-beater from Nick Kellogg put the Bobcats in the lead heading into the break. However, Ohio’s field goal percentage dropped nearly four percent in the second half to leave them at 35 percent for the game. Ohio also shot 5-21 from three.
Cooper shot just 2-15 from the field, but his eight free throws helped him lead the team with 13 points. Baltic also felt the pain in the shooting game as he wound up just 5-17.
The interesting thing in Ohio’s post-winter break games is the fact that the team has kept things close while shooting such a low percentage. To think the Bobcats are a few made shots away from being 3-0 in the MAC as compared to 1-2, kept Offutt thinking the team will get back on track.
“We’re fine,” said Offutt. “This is basketball: you win some, you lose some. As long as our effort is good and we’re moving toward a good direction, we’re going to be fine.”
The good news for the ‘Cats is that the conference season is still young. Ohio has a chance to put its MAC record above .500 this week with games against Kent State on Wednesday and Miami of Ohio on Saturday.