Men’s Basketball: Ohio Survives Scrappy Contest, Improves To 16-4

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In a game that head coach John Groce called a "fist fight," Ohio was able to find a way to win against Western Michigan on Wednesday night at the Convocation Center, taking out the Broncos by a final score of 56-51.

The 'Cats (16-4, 4-2 MAC) came out red-hot in the first half, draining four of their first six shots, two of which were from beyond the arc, on their way to an early 10-1 lead. That lead would balloon to as much as 15 before WMU rallied off a 16-1 run to end the half and head into the break tied at 30.

Early in the second period, neither side was able to gain control of the flow of the game. The Broncos got to their largest lead of the game, a two point advantage with 12:33 to play. However, that score would not last long, as Ohio reeled off a 14-6 run that Western Michigan was not able to overcome.

D.J. Cooper led all players with 18 points, and was the only Bobcat to reach double figures in scoring. He also contributed five rebounds and three assists, as well as three steals. Ricardo Johnson tallied nine points off the bench for Ohio, but was a huge factor on the glass, snaring a season-high seven rebounds. Jon Smith also played exceptionally well for the 'Cats, pulling down eight rebounds as well as tacking on six points.

Johnson said that he is starting to feel more confident with how he is playing

“Our coach tells us, ‘be confident, play confident, and be able to produce.’ I think I found my role, and I want to help the team any way I can,” Johnson said.

For the Broncos (9-11, 3-3 MAC), Austin Richie led the team with 16 points. Mike Douglas added 12 markers, and Shayne Whittington grabbed a game high 13 rebounds to go along with his nine points.

Ohio shot 25 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 78 percent from the charity stripe for the game. The Broncos shot 32 percent from deep and 76.5 percent from the free throw line.

Groce commented that due to the physical style of the game, every possession was critical, which put even more importance on the rebounding totals. Despite losing the battle on the glass 43-32, the 'Cats defense came up huge, forcing 17 Bronco turnovers. Ohio walked away with nine steals on the night, which Groce attributed to the athleticism and the length of his players.

“We’ve got some guys who can guard the ball who have some length. I think we get a lot of deflections and that leads to a lot of turnovers, and that creates some offense, so hopefully that’s a trend that continues,” Groce said. He also stated that he felt his team did an excellent job running their out-of-bounds sets.

Although Groce was happy to see his team win what he called an “ugly game,” he added that it isn’t necessarily a style of play he wants to continue.

“I did tell them that I’d prefer not to master the art of winning ugly games and we can play a little bit more consistently with our offense over the course of a 40-minute game, which obviously we did last week. So we know we’re capable,” Groce said.

The Cats will return to the Convo to end their four-game homestand in a nationally televised contest against the invading Ball State Cardinals. Tip is scheduled for 11 am.