Updated Sat, Mar 16, 2013 3:02 pm
Ohio 74, Western Michigan 63
No. 2 Ohio
D.J. Cooper: 21 points, 10 assists, 3 steals
Walter Offutt: 14 points, 11 rebounds
No. 3 Western Michigan
Darius Paul: 16 points, 6-7 field goals
Shayne Whittington: 6 points, 12 rebounds, 2-7 field goals
Ohio 41, Western Michigan 24
On the Run:
Western Michigan played back-and-forth basketball with Ohio through the first media timeout to an 8-8 tie. Coming out of the stoppage, however, Ohio began a 26-7 run that would last until just before the five-minute mark. With a 29-13 lead, Ohio set the tone for the game and the tournament, establishing itself as a favorite to win for the third time in four years.
Spreading the Wealth:
Jim Christian takled about the importance of his bench this week, and his second unit responded with a productive first half. Nine different Bobcats contributed to the early lead by scoring in the opening 20 minutes. D.J. Cooper dished out eight assists to initiate the offense and found several teammates for easy scoring opportunities.
Ohio outrebounded the second-best rebounding team in the MAC in the first half, 13-10 -- 12-7 on the defensive end. Western Michigan center Shayne Whittingham led the rebounding effort with five boards, but Ohio competed as a team to win on the glass; seven different Bobcats grabbed a rebound before the break.
Frankly, Ohio didn't leave many shots for Western Michigan to grab on offense. The Bobcats shot 63 percent in the opening frame and made seven of nine 3-point attempts to set a season high for 3-point percentage in a half (77.8 percent). Cooper finished the half with 9 points on 3-of-3 from 3-point territory to lead all scorers. Reggie Keely added 8 points and Walter Offutt scored 6.
Western Michigan 39, Ohio 33
Ohio began the second half in a shooting slump, and the Broncos capitalized on the opportunity to make up some ground. The Bobcats made just three of their first 13 shots from the field as the Broncos opened on a 22-7 run. A layup by Whittingham at the 10:21 mark reduced the gap to just 2 points, but Cooper answered with a 3 to bump it back up to a more comfortable 5.
When things got too close for comfort, seniors Cooper and Offutt carried the load. The duo combined for 20 points in the second half and made important plays when it counted the most. Furthermore, they found ways to impact the game without scoring -- Cooper with 10 assists and Offutt with 11 rebounds.
Championship or Bust:
With the win, the Bobcats will match up with Akron for a MAC Tournament chamionship and an NCAA tournament bid. Akron bested the Bobcats both times during the regular season by a combined score of 174-153. This is the thrid time in four years that Ohio will match up with the Zips with a trip to the Big Dance on the line. Ohio will try to make it the third win.