Basketball Notebook: Bobcats notch big win against Northern Illinois

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper backs down a Northern Illinois defender. The Bobcats beat the Huskies by 18 points at The Convo Wednesday. (Dan Kubus | Staff Photographer)

Ohio beat Northern Illinois 81-63 to move to 3-0 in Mid-American Conference play Wednesday at The Convo. Read our chronological coverage of the game below.

 

Pregame

 

When it comes to statistics, Ohio's Wednesday showdown against Northern Illinois is distinctly tilted in its favor.

The Bobcats (11-5, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) have won 32 of their last 34 on their home court, while the Huskies (3-11, 1-1 MAC) are have won only one of eight on the road this season.

Ohio's 74 points per game outpaces Northern Illinois' average by 17, it shoots 11 percent better from the floor and averages 10 more assists per game. 

Early indications are that the Bobcats will take the floor without injured redshirt sophomore forward Kadeem Green, who suffered an ankle sprain Saturday against Western Michigan. Junior guard Travis Wilkins, who played sparingly Saturday and missed the three prior games, was active in pregame warmups. 

Coming into the game, Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper had recorded an Ohio record 824 assists — good for No. 24 on the NCAA's all-time list. Five more would give him sole possession of No. 23 in the record books, while 10 would give him the No. 21 distinction. 

"It’s a total blessing to be able to have my name in history like that, to always be there as one of the top 25 best passers in the country," Cooper said. "It’s just a credit to me and my teammates."

The game is the Bobcats' first in front of a full-fledged student contingent since class let out for Winter Intersession more than a month ago.

Redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt said it will be an energy boost for the Bobcats to play in front of a full student section once again.

"We’re excited to be here, back at The Convo with the students here," he said. "I think it will bring an extra edge and extra intensity factor as far as helping us win."

 

Look back at the Bobcats' last game, a two-point win against Western Michigan, here. Read beat reporter Jim Ryan's game preview here. Follow him and The Post Sports on Twitter for game updates.

 

First Half

For the fourth-straight game, the Bobcats' starting five consisted of Cooper, Offutt, junior guard Nick Kellogg and senior forwards Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic.

The Huskies won the opening tip, but came up empty on their first possesion. The Bobcats did the same, but forced the Huskies to commit a backcourt violation before Offutt broke the ice with a layup a minute into the game.

Offutt scored the Bobcats' next points as well, making good of a behind-the-back pass from Cooper and taking it to the rim for two.

Northern Illinois briefly took the lead, but a Cooper three-pointer gave the Bobcats the advantage once again.

A Northern Illinois jumper gave it a one-point lead heading into the first media timeout, though.

Ohio juniors Ricardo Johnson, a guard, and Jon Smith, a forward, checked in at that point. 

Johnson scored on his first touch, touching one off the glass in the lane. He had a block at the opposite end of the floor, which led to an empty possession for Ohio. 

Ohio sophomore guard Stevie Taylor checked in soon therafter, and was quickly nailed with a blocking foul, from which Northern Ilinois made both foul shots and went ahead 12-9.

11:25 remained in the half.

Taylor drained a three on his second trip down the floor, and watched on as Kellogg hit another from downtown to bring the Bobcats' lead to five with 10 minutes to play in the half.

Taylor then finished a layup off a fast-break, behind-the-back feed from Johnson and knocked down a corner three to give the Bobcats a 10-point advantage.

Offutt then hit a jumper from beyond the arc to move the score to 25-12 with seven minutes remaining in the half. 

The Bobcats were on a 16-0 run at that point.

Keely continued the run on a layup over two defenders on a post feed from Kellogg. 

Ohio extended its run to 20 points before the Huskies got back on the board, and kept pushing the envelope with a pair more threes and open layup from Cooper. 

Ohio led by 20 points with four minutes to play in the half.

Junior guard T.J. Hall checked in less than a minute before making his first three — a loft over a Northern Illinois defender from the wing.

Smith finished the half on an emphatic note by dunking home a dish in transition from Cooper with just more than a minute left.

He did the same with 21 seconds left, taking a feed under the basket for a two-handed dunk and a foul, from which he made the bonus attempt.

 

Halftime: Ohio 45, Northern Illinois 18

 

Cooper moved into the No. 23 slot on the NCAA's all-time assist list with a pair of feeds to Smith in the paint in the closing 1:20 of the first half.

He closed the half with six of Ohio's 16 assists.

The Bobcats shot 68 percent from the field in the opening half, and had 18 points off Northern Illinois' 13 turnovers.

Offutt led Ohio in the scoring column with 12 points, while Taylor had eight and Cooper, Smith and Johnson had five apiece.

The Huskies shot only 28 percent from the field in the first half, and did not have a scorer with more than six points.

 

Second Half

 

The Huskies started the second half much stronger than they ended the second, scoring four straight before the Bobcats could get on the board.

Cooper knocked down the Bobcats' first field goal, a deep three-pointer, at the 17-minute mark. 

On the Huskies' ensuing play, Smith made his post presence known with a defiant block on a layup attempt.

The Bobcats began the second half sloppily on the offensive end, shooting 1-for-6, including a flubbed transition dunk from Baltic that caused Christian to burn his first full timeout.

Ohio led 50-24 with 16 minutes to play. 

The Bobcats kept steady through the heart of the half, cashing in an and-one play from Johnson and back-to-the basket turnaround twos from Baltic and Keely.

The led by 30 with 12:30 to play.

Ohio junior guard Travis Wilkins checked into the game for the first time at the 11-minute mark. 

He pushed the Bobcats over the 70-point barrier several minutes later, as the Bobcats continued to coast to their fourth-straight win.

The Bobcats cruised through the remainder of the game, keeping the Huskies at an arm's length as time wore down.

 

Final: Ohio 81, Northern Illinois 63

 

The Bobcats had little need to press the Huskies down the stretch Wednesday, as they led handily at half and were able to experiment a bit as time ticked off the clock. They shot only 36 percent from the field in the second half, as opposed to Northern Illinois' 43 percent, but still won by an 18-point margin.

 

Statistics

 

Offutt: 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, three three-pointers, four rebounds, three assists

Keely: 12 points, three rebound, two steals

Cooper: Nine points, eight assists, three rebounds

Johnson: Nine points, three assists, three steals, two rebounds

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Nader: 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals

Keith Gray: 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, four assists

Cravatta: 10 points, four rebounds

 

Reactions


"It’s just one of those things where when you’re shots aren’t falling you have to get in the gym and get some extra shots up. It’s crazy how that works. When you do a little bit extra and you’re working hard, shots just start falling." — Offutt

"I think you get energy from a lot of different ways, and I thought today the players got energy from the crowd. I thought we had an unbelievable student section. They were loud and into the game, and in the first half they provided an unbelievable spark for the team." — Christian

"You can’t lose on your home court, and the next step is winning on the road, which we did (in) our first one at Western Michigan. We got another good Toledo team coming in here. They’re coming off a loss, so we have to be prepared to defend them." — Offutt

 

Twitter Notes

 

Ohio's first half play left plenty to be happy about...

Christian was not too happy with Ohio's second half play...

Two more helpers and Cooper is No. 21 in the NCAA's all-time assist ranks...

Wilkins' seven minutes were encouraging...

Hard work pays off, if you ask Offutt...
 

Up Next

 

Ohio (12-5, 3-0 MAC) takes on Toledo at The Convo on Saturday. The Rockets are 6-8 on the year, and fell to Western Michigan 79-56 Wednesday. Toledo is 2-1 in MAC play, having beat Kent State and Central Michigan in its first two conference games.

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