Published Wed, Feb 1, 2012 11:38 pm Dateline
Ohio continued its winning ways Wednesday night at Northern Illinois. The Bobcats downed the Huskies 67-58 in what was a back-and-forth contest.
In the first half NIU, (2-18, 1-7 MAC) was shooting the ball well and hitting the glass; two areas head coach John Groce was concerned about coming into the game.
“In the first 20 minutes I’m going to give them credit,” Groce said in his routine postgame radio interview with "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein. “I thought they were the tougher team in the bulk of the first 20 minutes.”
Ohio took a 27-26 lead into halftime. The ‘Cats came out of the intermission ready to play. Ohio opened the second half on a 14-3 run, and the Huskies could never fully recover.
The ‘Cats led by as much as 20 points in the second half. Ohio (18-4, 6-2 MAC) faltered down the stretch, allowing NIU cut the lead to 8 with under a minute to play.
“Six minutes is a lot of time even when you’re up by twenty points,” said Groce. “We have to finish them off better.”
It was too little too late for the Huskies and Ohio pulled away with its first road win in conference play.
Walter Offutt brought his self-proclaimed “wolf” mentality in this one, attacking the basket constantly. Offutt led all scorers with 19 points, and went a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line.
Nick Kellogg scored 12 points, including a couple of big threes during the second half run for Ohio. D.J. Cooper scored just four points on 1-6 shooting, notched four assists and grabbed three rebounds. Reggie Keely chipped in 13 points serving as Ohio’s post presence on the offensive end.
Shooting has been a constant focus for Ohio of late. Tonight the ‘Cats got it done in that department. Ohio shot 45 percent from the field, over 40 percent from 3-point range, and 76 percent from the free throw line.
With the win, Ohio finds itself tied with Buffalo for second place in the MAC East, trailing only Akron by a single game. Now, entering the last month of the regular season, the ‘Cats are in a prime position to make a run at the MAC title.
“I’m awful proud of our guys,” Groce said. “We got four home games left, and I think this team with their effort deserves some good crowds down the stretch.”
Ohio returns home Saturday looking for its 19th win against Central Michigan. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.