Ohio Routs Northern Illinois, 81-63

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Ohio University welcomed back students and school bells rang once again starting Monday, Jan. 14. The Bobcats rang in the new semester with an 81-63 victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies Wednesday in front of a raucous home crowd, effectively welcoming students back to the Convocation Center as well.

Walter Offutt led the way for the Bobcats (12-5, 3-0), scoring a team-high 19 points and adding four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Reggie Keely was the only other Ohio player in double-figures with 12 points, but 11 ‘Cats in all contributed on the scoreboard. Seven players including Offutt and Keely scored five points or more. Perhaps more impressive is that Ohio converted its 27 field goals on 25 assists, eight such passes belonging to D.J. Cooper.

Ohio was in classic form Wednesday night, scoring 28 points off turnovers and 13 on the fast break. The Bobcats were also true to form in the rebounding column, losing out to the Huskies (3-12, 1-2) by seven.

“We have that type of team,” said head coach Jim Christian. “When we play hard and can get stops and turn people over and get out on the break, that’s when we play well.”

The teams traded buckets at the game’s onset with Northern Illinois pulling out to a 12-9 lead. After a pair of free throws from Ricardo Johnson cut the Huskies’ lead to one, the Bobcats began feasting on defensive stops and wide open spaces to shoot.

Stevie Taylor and Nick Kellogg sank back-to-back three-point baskets to break open a five-point lead. Johnson’s, Taylor’s and Kellogg’s scores kick-started a 36-6 Ohio run to end the half ahead 45-18.

The Ohio offense punished the Huskies, burying them in a deep, dark hole after they led with less than 11 minutes to go in the first half. Northern Illinois caved in a hostile road environment and never led again.

Highlight reel plays fueled the fire of a crowd of more than 7500. Behind-the-back passes from Cooper to Offutt and Johnson to Taylor wowed the crowd. A thunderous jam by Jon Smith plus the foul capped an incredible first half for the Bobcats in which they shot 68 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from behind the arc.

“The crowd played a pretty big part,” said Johnson, “It helped the bench with our energy a lot and got us playing together.”

The ‘Cats rolled in the second half, clamping down on defense and never allowing the Huskies closer than 18. Ohio’s offense, despite a drop-off in the final 20 minutes, made repeated trips to the charity stripe, where they knocked down 12 of 16 attempts in the second half.

Ohio moved to 3-0 in the MAC for the first time since 2006 with the win. The Toledo Rockets visit Athens Saturday with tipoff set for 6:00 p.m.

*Photo Credit: Kate Hiller