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Basketball Notebook: Bobcats shoot down Eagles
Ohio beat Eastern Michigan 73-50 Wednesday at the Convo to move to 20-6 overall and 11-1 in the Mid-American Conference. Follow our chronological coverage of the game below.
While most Mid-American Conference teams were enjoying the relief of week away from game action, Ohio and Eastern Michigan readied tip-off at The Convo Wednesday.
The opponents were initially slated to play each other Jan. 30, but because the presence of an armed gunman near the Ohio University campus earlier in the day the game was rescheduled. With a win, the Bobcats would clinch their first six-game sweep of MAC West opponents in program history.
The off day wasn't necessarily welcomed by Ohio (19-6, 10-1 MAC), as it interrupted its usual schedule. Having a mid-week game this time around is helpful, however, coach Jim Christian said.
"I like to play this time of year," he said. "I don’t like to sit out for a straight week. I don’t know what was gained by any of that."
With a single assist, Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper will take sole possession of the No. 15 spot on the NCAA all-time assist list. Ten helpers would move him to No. 14 overall.
A total of three steals would bump him onto the NCAA top 25 list, as well.
Cooper and senior forwards Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic will also be playing in their 135th career game for the Bocbats — a program record.
The game falls in the middle of a hectic stretch for Ohio, as the Bobcats are fresh off an overtime win against Kent State Saturday and head to Nashville to take on Belmont this weekend.
Next up in MAC play looms Akron, which leads to nation with a 17-game winning streak.
Regardless, the Bobcats' focus is on the task at hand — taking care of business against the stingiest defense in the conference.
"They’re one of the best zone teams in the country," Christian said. "I don’t think anybody plays it like they do at they’re length."
The Eagles (12-13, 5-6 MAC) will be keen on loading the paint with their big men, including a pair of centers that are listed as 6-foot-10 or taller.
The bulk of Eastern Michigan's scoring comes from a trio of 10-point producers — senior guard Derek Thompson, and redshirt junior forwards Glenn Bryant and Daylen Harrison.
Thompson keeps The Eagles' offense running at a snail's pace, as they average only 57.4 points per game.
Ohio will look to force Eastern Michigan into transition and move as quickly as usual defensively.
Christian said that at this point in the season, the Bobcats should be able to combat anything the Eagles throw at them. As a result, he said, opportune play is key.
"This is the time of year where players have to step up and execution has to be good," Christian said. "We might put a new wrinkle here or there to get you a bucket, but you’re not going to be surprised, and they’re not going to be surprised by anything we do."
Look back at the Bobcats' last game, a three-point overtime win against Kent State, here. Read beat reporter Jim Ryan's game preview here. Follow him and The Post Sports on Twitter for game updates.
Ohio's starters are Cooper, Keely, junior forward T.J. Hall, junior guard Nick Kellogg and redshirt senior forward Walter Offutt.
The Eagles put up a pair of shots that were well short of the rim on their first possession, and the Bobcats took the lead on their first trip down the floor with a crafty move to the rim from Hall.
Eastern Michigan then opened its scoring with a three-pointer as the shot clock expired, which Keely countered with a pair of layups.
The Bobcats led 6-3 heading into the first media timeout. The Eagles had two shot-clock violations leading up to that point.
Keely continued his contributions after the stoppage, as he posted the Bobcats' next point — a free throw conversion — and fed Hall for a backdoor up-and-under cut for a layup.
Baltic then checked in for the first time and received an alley-oop inbound pass, which he laid in for two points.
Ohio led 14-3 with 13 minutes remaining in the half after a three-pointer from Kellogg.
Ohio junior guard Travis Wilkins replaced Kellogg less than a minute later, and redshirt junior forward Jon Smith followed suit soon thereafter.
Wilkins made his presence known by taking a charge on his first defensive play and making a corner three on the subsequent trip down the floor.
Ohio sophomore guard Stevie Taylor checked in for the first time at the 10:54 mark, at which the Bobcats led 17-3.
Baltic and Kellogg then added to the Bobcats' lead with a pair of twos, but Eastern Michigan broke its scoring drought with baskets on back-to-back possessions as well.
The Bobcats led 21-8 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Ohio junior guard Ricardo Johnson had made his first appearance by that point.
The Bobcats upped their lead to 15 points by the 4:30 mark, after a pair of free throw makes from Cooper on an Eastern Michigan technical and inside cut from Offutt.
Baltic then put an exclamation point on Ohio's run, tipping in a transition alley-oop from Cooper, who had seven assists to the 3:15 mark.
He notched his eighth assist of the evening on Ohio's next trip down the floor when he fed Keely in the paint for his fifth field goal of the game.
Cooper then hit a three-pointer on Ohio's final play of the first half to put the Bobcats ahead by 20.
Halftime: Ohio 36, Eastern Michigan 16
The Bobcats shot 58 percent from the field in the first half to pull away from the Eagles early. Eastern Michigan converted only seven of its 24 attempts and pulled down 10 fewer rebounds than the Bobcats.
Keely led the Bobcats with 11 first half points, while Cooper and Kellogg had five apiece.
Ohio had 13 assists on 15 field goals, and more than half its points came in the paint.
Keely kick-started the Bobcats' second half scoring with a pretty up-and-under layup on their second possession.
Eastern Michigan had the upper hand out of the gate, though, as it scored six points in the first three minutes of play, as opposed to Ohio's two, prompting Christian to call a timeout.
Cooper came out of the stoppage firing, as he drained a deep three to break the 40-point barrier for the Bobcats.
Then, coming out of the first media timeout, he picked up a steal and fed Offutt on a behind-the-back pass for a layup.
Cooper continued his uptempo performance with a transition three-pointer and dish to Baltic, who fed Smith for a dunk.
A three-pointer capped his three-minute barrage, which ended with the score 51-26 in Ohio's favor.
The Bobcats' lead stayed the same through the 7:42 mark, at which they led 55-30.
The Eagles hit a pair of three-pointers leading into the seven-minutes mark, however.
Keely came powering back with a powerful three-point play on a feed from Hall, who drove the length of the court before dishing the ball off in transition.
Eastern Michigan responded with another three-pointer, however, to bring the score to 58-39 in Ohio's favor with 5:40 remaining.
A hard foul on Keely with 4:44 remaining led to Offutt being called for a technical in the heat of the moment. Eastern Michigan made one of two additional shots, while Keely converted both of his.
Cooper then plucked a steal from the Eagles and went the length of the floor for a layup.
On the Eagles' next trip down the floor, Keely committed a hard intentional foul that led to shoving between players and a lengthy stoppage in play.
Tensions settled as the game drew to a close, as neither team had the obvious upper hand in the game's waning minutes.
Ohio senior guard David McKinley hit a three-pointer to pass the 70-point mark with 1:30 remaining, however.
Final: Ohio 73, Eastern Michigan 50
Ohio completed its first-ever six-game sweep against MAC West opponents Wednesday with an authoritative win against Eastern Michigan.
Keely: 20 points, four rebounds
Cooper: 16 points, 10 assists, five steals
Kellogg: Nine points on 3-of-6 shooting
Baltic: Eight points, nine rebounds
Sims: 12 points, three steals
Thompson: Nine points
Bryant: Seven points, three rebounds
"I thought we came out with great intensity, especially on the ball. Guys were rotating, and that’s when we get out on the break. I was glad to see our team kind of sustain that for the whole 40 minutes, which obviously we have to do in the next two games coming up for us." — Christian on Ohio's defensive play
"Coach has had us working on it over the last two days — not getting content with the threes (and) mixing it in a little bit and making sure we penetrate and (are) getting the big guys some touches." — Cooper on Ohio's offensive movement
"I think that was as well as we’ve played all year against the zone and it’s finally about time for us to start clicking against the zone because it’s the time of year where teams start to game plan around that." — Keely
"Guys are playing for a lot, and guys dream about winning championships and making runs, so it’s normal for guys to get a little testy about this time." — Keely on his intentional foul late in the game
Ohio (20-6, 10-1 MAC) will make the trip to Nashville to face Belmont on ESPN2 Saturday. The Bruins (20-5, 11-2 Ohio Valley Conference) have lost two of their last three after going on a 10-game win streak since the beginning of 2013.