Instant Reaction: Ohio Wins Season Opener Against Portland

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The atmosphere at the Convocation Center Saturday was electric, as the 2011-12 Sweet Sixteen team was recognized before the game. The current Bobcats had a hard time adjusting to the emotion of their home opener in the first half, but pulled away in the second to defeat Portland, 81-52.

Guards D.J. Cooper and Nick Kellogg led the way for the Bobcats early on, combining for 21 of the team’s 33 first half points. Ohio struggled from the field, otherwise.

First half woes: Ohio was outrebounded 17-10 by Portland in the first half and a great deal of that was due to the play of Ryan Nicholas, who had 10 points and six rebounds at half. Ohio’s Ivo Baltic only hit the bottom of the net once out of his first nine attempts, and the Bobcats only shot 40.6% from the field.

Ohio entered halftime tied at 33 with Portland, who lost 24 games a season ago. With Ohio redshirt senior Walter Offutt only playing eight minutes in the first half with two fouls, Ohio could never get their offense flowing.

Key statistic: The second half was a different story for both teams in terms of field goal percentage. Ohio shot 61.5% while the Pilots shot 25.9% from the field. Baltic and Reggie Keely had a huge half down low, shooting a combined 72.7%.

Momentum shift: The Bobcats minimized a five-point deficit to a tie game entering halftime and continued that momentum into the first minute of the second half.

Offutt returned and provided a spark immediately. With only a minute off the clock in the second half, Offutt was on the passing end of a Baltic transition dunk and the receiving end of an easy fast break layup, which began a 21-4 run Portland was never able to recover from.

Guard play: Offutt finished the game with four points on 1/5 shooting, but Cooper and Kellogg stepped up in his absence. Kellogg was a perfect 4/4 from behind the three-point arc and finished the game with 18 points. Cooper also contributed 18 points to go along with his six assists and five rebounds.

Off the bench, Snow College transfer Travis Wilkins hit his first career three pointer as a Bobcat, while Ricardo Johnson had six points and two rebounds.

Defense: The Bobcats forced 23 turnovers and had 12 steals on the day. Jon Smith was dominant down low with eight rebounds and four blocks, while Baltic finished with four boards and one block.

Key Quote: Christian on excitement of home opener: “I’ve never coached in a building that was this big. When they played that song before and everyone’s jumping, I was getting a little jumpy myself. I could’ve snuck into the O-Zone and bounced around with those guys for a little bit. The band is in midseason form. The O-Zone is in midseason form. We’ve just got to catch up.”

Next up: Ohio continues their home stand next Friday against UNC Wilmington. The Bobcats will tipoff at 7 p.m. at The Convocation Center.