Instant Reaction: Bobcats Escape Toledo, 76-67

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Before a large crowd at home on Saturday evening the Ohio Bobcats (13-5, 4-0) scratched and clawed their way to a 76-67 victory over the Toledo Rockets (6-9, 2-2). The win was Ohio’s fifth straight on the season and improves the team to 4-0 in conference play.

First Half:

With lights-out shooting from both sides early on the ‘Cats took a 10-6 lead with 17:20 left in the half after a wide open three from Walter Offutt on a dish from D.J. Cooper. The assist gave Cooper his second on the game, moving him into sole possession of the 21st spot on the NCAA’s all-time assists leaderboard.  Moments later on the opposite end of the court, Rockets point guard Julius Brown would score on a jumper tying the game at 10 apiece. Immediately following the play, Toledo’s Rian Pearson had some words for Walter Offutt. The verbal sparring resulted in a technical foul for Pearson. Cooper converted one of two from the charity stripe to put Ohio up 11-10 with 16 minutes left in the half.  Ohio would lead for the next eight minutes despite both squads trading buckets.

With 8:03 left in the half, Rockets center Nathan Boone blocked Offutt’s shot leading to an easy bucket for Reese Holliday on the opposite end to tie the game at 24 each. The two teams went blow-for-blow over the next four minutes, remaining tied for much of the time. Toledo took a 33-30 lead as Matt Smith drained a three with 4:11 left giving the Rockets their first lead since the first two minutes of the game. The Rockets took a 36-33 lead into half, the first time the ‘Cats trailed since their December 19 road loss to the Massachusetts Minuteman.

Second Half:

Ohio started the second half off with a spark, quickly regaining a 37-36 lead after a Baltic jumper from 12 feet out.  Ohio kept up its hot streak, outscoring the Rockets 11-4 in the first 3:30 of the half. But physical play on both sides of the court led to plenty of free throw attempts between the two teams. Within the first four minutes a combined 10 free throw attempts were taken between the two squads.

After a slow first half that saw Toledo’s Pearson enter the break with just five points, the lengthy guard came out in the second half playing with a purpose. He brought the Rockets within one point with 15:51 left in the game after a beautiful spin move for a layup on Offutt. The two teams continued to trade buckets in a fierce back-and-forth. Reggie Keely dominated early in the second half scoring nine points in the first six minutes and adding a key block on the defensive end. Despite Ohio’s many runs throughout the second half, it couldn’t seem to pull away from Toledo. However, thanks to smart and scrappy play the ‘Cats were able to draw crucial fouls late in the second half and despite hitting on just 15-25 free throw attempts in the second half, they were finally able to get some separation from the Rockets late in the second half, before eventually cruising to yet another victory.

Keely Doesn’t Miss:

The senior big man had yet another career day with 24 points, topping his previous career high of 19 that he set in the ‘Cats’ Janurary 9 victory over Buffalo. Keely finished the day a perfect 9-9 from the field and also added three boards and a block to his stat sheet. Keely has had an impressive season thus far and after Saturday’s performance is now third in the nation with a 68 percent success rate from the field.

Coop Watch:

The Cousy Award finalist entered the game at No. 23 on the all-time NCAA assists leaderboard. He finished the game with nine, giving him 841 in his career and moving him past Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas (833) and UCLA’s Pooh Richardson (833) and into sole possession of the 21st spot on the list. Cooper needs 15 more dimes to pass the next person on the list, Bradley’s Anthony Manuel.

Christian on Hard-Fought Win:

“I’m really happy for our team tonight because I thought it was one of those games where we could have played better, especially in the first half defensively. But we responded in the second half. In the first half…It was one of those nights when we had to find a way to win when some of our key components just didn’t play the game they normally have. In MAC play, over the course of 16 games, if you want to be in the hunt these are the games you have to win.”

Next Up:

Ohio travels to Oxford, OH on Wednesday, January 23 to square off with the Miami RedHawks. This will be the first time the current Bobcats face Miami sans head coach Charlie Coles. John Cooper has led the RedHawks to a 2-2 MAC record to this point.

Photo Credit: Kate Hiller