Basketball Notebook: Ohio notches first road win in tight tilt with Western Michigan

Ohio notched its first road win of the season against Western Michigan Saturday by a score of 61-59. The Bobcats moved to 11-5, 2-0 Mid-American Conference with the win. Read our chronological coverage of the game below.

 

Pregame

 

Ohio has taken four swings at gathering its first road win of the season and has walked away with as many misses. It looks to right the ship against Western Michigan Saturday.

The Broncos, which are rated as the second-best Mid-American Conference team in terms of RPI, host the Bobcats after falling to Akron by 22 points in their conference-opener Wednesday.

Ohio (10-5, 1-0 MAC) is hot off the heels of a blowout of Buffalo Wednesday. 

This season, Western Michigan (8-6, 0-1 MAC) has dealt without its top four scorers from a year ago, as three were lost to graduation and then-sophomore center Matt Stainbrook transferred to Xavier. 

The Broncos are led offensively by forwards Nate Hutchenson, a senior, and Darius Paul, a freshman, and redshirt junior center Shayne Whittington, all of whom average more than 11 points and five rebounds per game. 

Its strength is in its play in the paint, where it grabs a conference-best 38.6 rebounds per game. 

The Bobcats' average of 31 rebounds per game is second-worst in the MAC.

With a pair of assists, Ohio guard D.J. Cooper, who was named a Cousy Award finalist for the second-straight year Thursday, will break into the NCAA all-time top 25 for that category.

The Bobcats are the nation's most prolific passers, as they average 19.6 helpers per game.

Ohio junior guard Travis Wilkins was cleared for action heading into the game after sitting out the three previous outings with an ankle injury.

Notably, Western Michigan has squared off against ranked opponents Michigan and North Carolina State in non-conference play, and notched a five-point win against South Florida in mid-November. 

Look back at the Bobcats' last game, an 18-point win against Buffalo, here. Read beat reporter Jim Ryan's game preview here. Follow him and The Post Sports on Twitter for game updates.

 

First Half

 

Ohio's starting lineup is as follows, Cooper, redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt, junior guard Nick Kellogg and senior forwards Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely.

The game started off slowly, as each team took two trips down the floor before Hutchenson broke the ice with a pair of free throw makes.

Ohio redshirt junior forward Jon Smith checked into the game for Keely with 17:25 remaining in the half, as Keely was whistled for two early fouls.

Baltic was the first Bobcat to score, as he hit a turnaround on their next possession.

Kellogg put Ohio ahead by three with a swish from beyond the arc in the corner with 16 minutes remaining in the half.

Smith was spelled by junior forward T.J. Hall after being called for his second foul soon thereafter, as well.

Junior guard Ricardo Johnson checked in soon thereafter, as well.

It became apparent early that the game would be one focused primarily on each team's defensive performance, as fouls and stout defense kept the game moving slowly through the first 10 minutes. 

The Broncos began the game 1-of-8 from the floor, while Ohio made four of its shots, to the 10-minute mark.

Redshirt sophomore forward Kadeem Green checked in around that point — getting an earlier start than usual because of foul trouble.

The Broncos took the lead with a corner three with just more than nine minutes remaining in the half.

But the Bobcats bounced back with three points to take a 16-14 lead with seven minutes left in the half.

A quick Western Michigan three-pointed soon thereafter evened the score, though.

Wilkins made his first appearance soon after that point.

On his first trip down the floor, Offutt drove the baseline, let go of a runner and was put on the line for an and-one opportunity. 

He missed the extra attempt, however.

Hall gave the Bobcats a three-point advantage with 4:50 left in the first half, but once again the Broncos didn't let the lead sit for long, as they fired back with a nice backdoor feed for two points.

A layup, steal and foul combination brought the Broncos into the driver's seat with less than three minutes to play. They led 25-24 with 2:19 to play.

Keely, who was back in the game while Green was having his leg looked at on the bench, poured in a pair in the closing seconds of the pass, taking an interioir feed to the glass and in to give the Bobcats the lead.

Cooper then took a steal the length of the floor for an easy layup, and Hall made one of two free throws to bring the Bobcats' lead to four.

 

Halftime: Ohio 29, Western Michigan 25

 

Ohio emerged with the upper hand within the final minute of the first half, but were not the obvious leader in the first half. Despite its 40 percent shooting mark (as opposed to Western Michigan's 24 percent clip,) the Bobcats were neck-and-neck with the Broncos throughout the half because of 12 fouls.

Cooper had only one of Ohio's seven first half assists, and led the team with eight points. 

Senior guard Brandon Pokley led the Broncos with eight points on perfect 2-for-2 shooting from beyond the arc.

 

Second Half

 

Keely started Ohio's second half scoring with a 15-foot jumper, but the Broncos' next possession resulted in an and-one opportunity for Paul, who missed the extra attempt.

It was more than three minutes of game play before the Bobcats scored again, on a Hall three-pointer from the corner with Hutchenson's hand in his face. 

The Bobcats led 34-29 with 15:29 remaining in the game.

Cooper moved to No. 24 in the NCAA all-time assist record books with a dish to Smith in transition with less than 14 minutes to play in the game.

The Bobcats bumped their lead to their largest of the game — 43-31 with 12:47 remaining — on a play in which the Broncos were whistled for goaltending and an additional foul.

At that point, the Bobcats were on a 9-0 run that spanned more than four minutes.

The Broncos hung around just enough through the mid-stretch of the half to keep Ohio on its toes. Free throws cut Ohio's lead to seven with nine minutes to play.

A Western Michigan and-one with 7:30 remaining in the game brought the score to 49-45 in the Bobcats' favor — the closest margin in more than seven minutes of game play.

Hall barreled back with a clutch three-pointer on the next play, though, but the Broncos stayed pace and hit a runner with the shot clock running down to let the margin slip to only five.

A Cooper transition three upped his point total to a game-high 14, and the Bobcats' lead back to seven points.

The Bobcats led by five with four minutes to play.

Offutt and Hutchenson traded layups within the next minute of play, keeping the Bobcats' lead static through the 2:40 mark.

Freshman guard Jared Klein hit a pair of free-throws to bring the score within three, but Baltic drained a jumper to up the Bobcats' lead to five once again with 1:18 remaining. 

Klein came back with a pair of foul shots to bring the Broncos' deficit to three with time winding down, and stole the resulting inbound pass seconds later. 

He converted the steal into two points with a layup, bringing the score to 60-59 with six seconds remaining.

Cooper missed the first, made his second  of two free throws as a result of a quick foul. 

Brown had a three-point opportunity for the win, but it clanged off the glass and to the floor. 

 

Final: Ohio 61, Western Michigan 59

 

The Bobcats were able to muster the necessary recipe for their first road win of the season with time winding down and Western Michigan surging.

The win, which moved Ohio to 11-5 and 2-0 in the MAC, was just the 18th all-time victory in Kalamazoo.

 

Statistics

 

Cooper: 16 points, six assists, five rebounds

Keely: 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting

Hall: Nine points, three rebounds

Kellogg: Eight points, four rebounds

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Klein: 18 points, five rebounds

Whittington: 10 points, 13 rebounds

Hutchenson: Eight points

Pokley: Eight points

 

Reactions

 

"I don’t care about the other games. We’re 1-0 on the road, and that’s the only 1-0 that counts." — Christian

"I thought it was as good of a defensive game as we’ve played in a while, with the exception of obviously the fouls late in the game." — Christian

"When you’re on the road, it’s never going to be easy and it’s never going to be the same. You have to find a way to do it." — Christian

"He played a phenomenal game tonight. He just wanted the ball at big times, made right plays, hit big shots." — Christian, on Cooper's play

"We were just consistent and together. We knew they were going to go on some runs." — Cooper, on preparing for Western Michigan 

 

Twitter Notes

 

The monkey is off Ohio's back...

Despite early foul trouble, Keely was very effective...

Baltic did not continue his improved performance from Wednesday...

Defense by committee kept Whittington in check...

It's on to the next one for Ohio...

 

Up Next

 

Ohio takes to the hardwood Wednesday against Northern Illinois. The Huskies bested Miami by 11 in their Mid-American Conference opener, and lost to Akron by 15 Saturdy.

The game will tip at 7 p.m. at The Convo.

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