Men’s basketball: Cooper tallies first career triple-double, Ohio blows out Portland 72-54

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There were no nervous moments down the stretch for Ohio in Portland as the Bobcats blasted the Pilots 72-54 Saturday night.

"It's the best we've played in terms of a complete game," Head Coach John Groce said in the post game radio interview with Russ Eisenstein, voice of the Ohio Bobcats.

D.J. Cooper headlined the night with the first triple-double of his Ohio career. He led all scorers with 14 points and also notched 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"First triple double of my ou career!," Cooper tweeted after the game, but went on to say, "even better because we got the road win!"

Cooper also picked the Pilots' pockets five times on Saturday to lead a defense that allowed only 19 points in the second half on 29 percent shooting. Portland was led by Ryan Nicholas and Kevin Bailey who scored 13 points and Tanner Riley who had 10, but most of their damage came in the first half. The Bobcats defense held them to just nine points in the second half and the Pilots shot a measly 7-of-24 from the field in the second frame. 

Groce also said in the post game that, "it's hard to win on the road." Groce was pleased with his team's second half defense, which was stifling. "Tonight we give up 43 (percent in the first half) and 29 (percent) in the second half"

It's not too often that a triple-double could be overshadowed, but Jon Smith almost did just that. Smith played, by far, his best game in the green-and-white jersey. Smith had 11 points on five-of-six shooting from the field, nine rebounds in 27 minutes on the floor, all of which were season and and Ohio career highs. His previous bests were six points in the season opener against UT-Martin;  and seven rebounds and  25 minutes he recorded against Lamar in game two.

Smith cited his lack of foul trouble for his breakout performance in the post game interview. "When you play harder you foul less," Smith said, "that's what I tried to do."

Ohio showed its depth once again Saturday; 10 Bobcats checked in for at least seven minutes. Cooper led the way with 14, but three other 'Cats were in double figures including Walter Offutt with 12, Smith with 11 and Ricardo Johnson tallied 10. 

The key stretch for Ohio came in the middle part of the second half. The Bobcats had a couple nine-point leads in the second half, but Portland found a way to keep coming back. Ohio responded to one of those Pilots' runs with a 10-to-2 run in about a three-minute span that Portland never recovered form.  It was 47-41 Ohio with 13:12 remaining in the game, and in just over three minutes, the 'Cats owned a 57-43 lead with 9:02 left in the ball game.

The first half gave no indication it would be a lopsided-Bobcats' victory. The game was tied at 32 a piece with 1:39 left in the opening half, and Ohio only led by three, 38-35 at halftime. But the Pilots never tied the ball game up and were blown out 34-to-19 in the second half. Portland's last lead in the game came with 2:52 remaining in the first half when the Pilots led 29-27.

It could have been an easy time for Ohio to drop a game to team that was rated below them in RPI and strength of schedule. The Bobcats were coming off a hard-fought, emotional win at Oakland Wednesday night, and had been away from Athens since Tuesday. This is the program's first 7-1 start to a season since the 1969-1970 season. The Bobcats meet up with Division 3 power Marietta on Wednesday back in the Convocation Center where Ohio is a perfect 4-0 this season.