Published Sat, Dec 8, 2012 5:13 pm Dateline
Updated Sat, Dec 8, 2012 7:55 pm
After two consecutive road losses, Ohio returned home to the comfort of the Convocation Center to take down Oakland 78-61. With the win, the Bobcats improve to 7-2 on the young season and head coach Jim Christian earned his 200th career victory.
“I’m proud of the resiliency of our team today,” said Christian. “I think that during the course of the year you get tested in a lot of different ways. And we, obviously, needed to step up and respond today.”
D.J. Cooper earned his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 assists. The senior point guard also added five rebounds.
Ohio and Oakland both began the game having trouble putting the ball in the basket with both teams playing active and aggressive defense. After the first four minutes of the half, only the Bobcats’ Walter Offutt and the Golden Grizzlies’ Travis Bader had scored. Bader’s three-pointer before the under-16 media timeout gave Oakland a 5-4 lead.
Bader continued his tear hitting another three-pointer out of the timeout followed by a pair of free throws. The Grizzlies’ star guard led all scorers with 29 points.
Cooper came charging back to spark a quick 8-0 Ohio run, hitting a three chased by a layup on a step-through move past Oakland defenders. The following possession, Cooper found Nick Kellogg in the corner for three to tie the game at 12.
The Bobcats and Golden Grizzlies traded baskets for much of the rest of the first half with no team leading by more than 10—the Bobcats ended the half up 39-29 after a 17-8 run in the final four minutes. The lead changed six times throughout the half.
Ohio picked up in the second half right where it left off, scoring the ball well and earning good shots. The contrast came in how the Golden Grizzlies began the final 20 minutes as Bader caught fire, hitting a pair of three-pointers at the half’s onset to keep the game close.
Oakland lit a spark as a whole, beginning an 18-9 run to start the second half to pull within one of the Bobcats’ lead. The Golden Grizzlies took the lead on a cross-court alley-oop to Raphael Carter, who followed with another such slam to put the Grizzlies up by three with 12:03 remaining.
Two free throws with 10:08 remaining in the game by the Grizzlies’ Corey Petros put Oakland down 56-55. However, that also marked the last time Oakland would score for more than seven minutes.
Bader turned the ball over on the Grizzlies’ next possession. T.J. Hall took the steal and turned it into a fast-break dunk opening up an 18-0 Ohio run. The seven-minute stretch was fueled mostly by Ohio’s bench with 14 of those points scored off the bench.
“In the second half,” said Offutt, “I think we wore them down a little bit. Give credit to our bench. We can play nine, ten guys and I think [Oakland] wore out as the game went on.”
The Bobcats kept their foot on the gas from that point on, refusing to give an inch once they got up by such a sizeable lead, never leading by fewer than 10 points inside six minutes.
Ohio’s defense, namely Ricardo Johnson, stepped up in a huge way in the second half. Johnson guarded Bader for the majority of his minutes and held Oakland’s guard to just two points in the final 15 minutes of the game.
“[Johnson] got rebounds when we needed it,” said Offutt, “got steals when we needed it, so I thought he did a great job and really changed the game.”
The Bobcats now enjoy the luxury of an entire week without games, however, it will hardly be a vacation with final exams scattered throughout the week for Ohio University students. When the pencils drop, Ohio’s players will pick up the basketballs once again Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. against another perennial tournament dark horse, Winthrop.