Published Wed, Jan 9, 2013 10:05 pm Dateline
Updated Thu, Jan 10, 2013 7:33 am
When the calendar changes to January, it means one thing in college hoops: the start of conference play. The Mid-American Conference season opened Wednesday for Ohio (10-5, 1-0) with a win over Buffalo (5-10, 0-1). The ‘Cats were coming off a huge win over Marshall on Saturday and would continue their dominance with an impressive 86-68 tromping of the Bulls.
The ‘Cats were on a roll early with their defense forcing three turnovers in the first three minutes. The takeaways—Ohio had 14 in the first half—led to easy buckets for Ohio, often in the paint as Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic combined for 10 points in the first five minutes and 21 in the first half. The domination wouldn’t stop there though, as Ohio went on a 6-0 run in the middle of the first half that featured three Bulls turnovers during the two-minute run.
Led by stud forward Javon McCrea, Buffalo was able to cut Ohio’s lead to just one with 10:09 left in the half. But Cooper, who came into the game just nine assists shy of moving into the NCAA’s top 25 all time, took over the game with nine minutes on the clock. Cooper stretched the floor in transition and was able to find a wide-open Baltic for an alley-oop to put Ohio up 22-19. Cooper and the ‘Cats would go on a 25-9 run over the next seven minutes. Ohio shot an eye-popping 80 percent during the final nine minutes of the half on its way to a 53-31 lead at halftime.
Keely, who managed to score 13 points and grab four boards in the first half, continued his domination and scored Ohio’s first six points in the half finishing the game with a career-best 19 points. Cooper and company continued the offensive clinic, getting the whole team involved with a team total 26 assists in the game. While Ohio played sloppily late in the second half, the ‘Cats led by 34 points with 9:03 left in the game, allowing them some wiggle room.
Defensively, everything continued to click for the ‘Cats. Ohio held McCrea, Buffalo’s leading scorer, to 13 points on the night while holding the entire team to just 36 percent from the field for the half. Ohio cruised the rest of the game.
Ohio scored 53 points in the first half, marking the third time in Ohio’s last four games that the team has managed to top the half-century mark in the first half. The team has averaged 86.4 points per game over its past five contests.
In Coop We Trust:
D.J. Cooper had another great game following his record-breaking night against Marshall. Cooper led all scorers with 21 points on 5-6 from three-point range. Cooper also added seven assists to his stat line, moving the Ohio and MAC all-time assists leader to within one dime of tying former Duke point guard Chris Duhon for 25th all-time in the NCAA assists with 819.
Keely’s Career Night:
The senior big man is off to a great senior season. Keely entered tonight’s contest as the nation’s leader in field goal percentage (70 percent) and topped his previous career high in points, which he set Saturday against Marshall, by scoring 19 points tonight. Keely also added five rebounds, two assists and two steals to his stat line for the night. Over Ohio’s last four games the senior is averaging 15.5 points per game along with nearly five rebounds per game as well to help spark Ohio’s dominating run.
Coming up next:
Ohio looks to continue its hot streak as it searches for its first road win on the season. The Bobcats head to Western Michigan (8-6, 0-1) on Saturday. The Broncos lost to Akron on Wednesday, 65-43, but have a pair of impressive big men in junior center Shayne Whittingham (12 points per game, 8 rebounds per game) and freshman forward Darius Paul (12 points per game, 7 rebounds per game). Ohio is 0-4 on the road this season.
*Photo Credit: Kate Hiller