Men’s basketball: Ohio misses history, falls to Robert Morris

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It will never be certain if all good things indeed do come to an end. However, the Ohio Bobcats’ nine-game winning streak did in fact come to an end Monday night after they lost to Robert Morris 70-67.

By losing in its last non-conference game before February's ESPN Bracketbuster game, Ohio (12-2) missed out on setting what would have been the mark for the best start in program history. Now Ohio shares the mark with the 1939-40 and 1920-21 Bobcat basketball teams.

Ohio’s last-ditch effort to tie the game came in the form of a three-point shot from D.J. Cooper, but the attempt didn’t even draw iron as time expired. Cooper finished the contest with 13 points behind only Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely, who each had 14.

Ohio’s chances looked slim, down eight points with just over a minute left to play. But two straight steals along with a free throw by TyQuane Goard and a dunk from Ricardo Johnson put Ohio down by three. A third consecutive steal had Ohio in a position to tie the game with time to spare.

The end of the game wasn’t the only time the ‘Cats found themselves clawing back from a large deficit and looking to Cooper to lead the comeback. The last two minutes and 30 seconds of the first half turned into the D.J. Cooper show. He scored eight points, gathered two steals, and added an assist to put Ohio within one heading into the halftime break. The Colonials’ big leads didn’t keep the Bobcats from fighting right back.

“Tonight, effort was not a problem,” Ohio head coach John Groce said, “I thought our effort was outstanding. I thought our execution was terrible.”

Ohio shot poorly from the field, only 35 percent for the game. The Bobcats’ lack of offense had the team trailing for almost the entirety of the game. Ohio’s largest lead came 17 seconds into the game at 2-0 (and also at 54-52 in the second half). Despite the deficit, Ohio hung in the contest, constantly nipping at the heels of the Colonials (11-4). Robert Morris’ 53 percent shooting percentage allowed them to maintain the lead and eventually earn the win.

Walter Offutt finished with only six points, approximately half of his season average. After the game, Offutt took responsibility for the team’s struggles Monday night.

“As a leader on this team, I’m going to take full responsibility for [the loss],” Offutt said. “I’ve got to get better. I will. We will, as a team, get better through this.”

While the offense struggled to make shots, the Bobcats forced an astronomical 31 turnovers while only committing 13 of their own. The incredible turnover differential left Groce shaking his head as to why his team lost.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Groce said. “I don’t know if I’ve been in a game where we’ve forced 31 turnovers and got beat.”

The coach and players can’t spend much time scratching their heads. Ohio has plenty to work on as Groce thinks his team is “not great, but good.”

Although Ohio would have enjoyed riding the wave of momentum that would have came from taking a 10-game winning streak into MAC play, the ‘Cats will need to regroup before heading to Bowling Green on Saturday, January 7.