Men’s basketball: Bobcats crush Marietta to improve to 8-1

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In the first game between the two schools in 26 years, Ohio dominated from start to finish and beat Marietta College 88-54.

The Bobcats made 12 three-pointers, good for 10th best in a single game in school history, and cruised to its fifth straight win behind D.J. Cooper's 15 points and seven assists.

"He's grown up a lot," Ohio head coach John Groce said of his junior point guard. "I tease those guys a lot. I say to the juniors, 'What was I thinking playing you guys as freshmen?'"

Cooper was one of five players in double figures for Ohio (8-1, unbeaten at home). Reggie Keely continued his strong start to the year, recording 13 points and seven rebounds. Nick Kellogg was 4-5 from three-point range and added 12 points. Walter Offutt and Stevie Taylor added 11 each.

Ohio led the 92nd meeting between the Bobcats and Pioneers wire-to-wire, but it wasn't a clean game in the second half for Groce's squad. The 'Cats turned the ball over seven times and only won the second half by four points. Marietta's Jason Humphrey scored 11 points and Kevin Knab added 10.

"I thought we got sloppy defensively with about 12 minutes to go," Groce said. "We started trading baskets, it started looking like an NBA All-Star Game, I wasn't too thrilled about that and that's why I burned a couple timeouts."

The 8-1 start is the best since 1969-70 and now ranks as the sixth-best start in program history. The best starting mark (11-0) was set by the 1940-41 team.

Ohio dominated the paint, outscoring Marietta 38-18 there and outrebounding the visitors by 14 boards.

"The one thing I like about this team…is whatever you ask them to do, they try to do it better," Groce said. "They want to be good…they understand more this year than normal what this thing is about. It's about doing something together. They're all-in."

Ohio started the game on a 28-3 run and won the school's ninth straight game overall in the series with Marietta (6-2, #9 in D-III) and 16th straight in Athens over the Pioneers.

"I wanted to see where our mind was," Groce said. "I wanted to see if we had matured in that area (early in games), and I think our guys sent a message tonight. It probably helped a little bit that when they came out for warmups they thought it was a road game. That fired them up a little bit, as it should."

The crowd at the Convocation Center was fairly large for a Wednesday night, students-on-break game, but mostly because Marietta brought hundreds of fans to pack the lower bowl of the 43-year-old arena.

Cooper has emerged as more of a vocal leader in 2011 than he has been in any of his first two seasons in Athens. With Ohio leading by 24 in the first half, Cooper was yelling for his teammates to lock down on defense, and, according to Groce, the Chicago-area native was vocal about defense at halftime, too.

"I thought our mindset was really good," the fourth-year Bobcat head coach commented. "We're going to be good in that area as long as Cooper, Offutt, Kellogg and (David) McKinley are ready to go, because those are the four guys that our players have told me they want to lead them. Those guys were ready to go and everyone else followed suit."

Next up for Ohio is a Saturday night trip to Wright State, which will be the first of two straight road tests for the Bobcats. Wright State (4-7) recently beat Miami (OH) but lost Wednesday night to the Yancy Gates-less Cincinnati Bearcats by 20 in Dayton.

After that, Groce and company go to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to play Northern Iowa in one of the toughest games of the non-conference. Ohio's national Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) was 22 before Wednesday (games against D-III schools don't count one way or the other when RPI is factored). Northern Iowa is ranked third in RPI, according to

"[We're] pretty locked in right now," Groce said. "As long as [we] stay that way we can continue to get better."