Men's Basketball: Bobcats cruise to 5-0 record

Jon Smith wins the tip off against Hampton’s Du’Vaughn Maxwell at The Convo. Ohio defeated Hampton 75-67 Nov. 20. (Jason Chow | Staff Photographer)

It’s safe to say that Ohio passed its first real test with flying colors Saturday, besting Richmond in come-from-behind fashion.

Richmond, which led by three heading into the break, faded fast because of Ohio’s second-half surge, allowing the Bobcats to shoot better  than 60 percent from the field and beyond the arc after the break on their way to a 73-48 win.

There was no special Thanksgiving secret to Ohio’s win, but the same recipe for success coach Jim Christian has cooked up all season.

“The formula for us is always the same,” Christian said. “We have to get stops, we have to push the ball in transition and then go get another stop.”

It’s a simple scheme, but one Ohio executed more efficiently than it had in its previous four wins.

The Bobcats opted to forgo a true holiday break, as a pair of practices sandwiched a team meal hosted by Christian and his family Thursday. The extra preparation showed against the Spiders — especially in the paint, which was labeled an area of emphasis heading into the weekend.

Ohio had 22 defensive rebounds and a season-high 14 more on the offensive end, from which it scored 20 points. It also scored 32 points in the paint, more than doubling the Spiders’ output despite the sizable impact of Richmond junior forward Derrick Williams, who is listed as 6 feet 6 inches and a stocky 270 pounds.

After going three-for-four and getting to the foul line early and often in the first half, the Bobcats kept Williams at bay after the break, permitting only three more points in as many foul shots.

“He came through in the first half and had 14 points — really easy points — and us as a collective whole had to turn around and rebound the ball and stop letting it get into the paint so easy,” said Ohio redshirt junior forward Jon Smith, who was charged with putting him to task in the paint for the majority of the game, because senior forward Reggie Keely was limited to 12 minutes because of foul trouble.

Smith was also successful on offense, tying a career-high 13 points on six-of-seven shooting; including a seven-point burst in the second half.
Still, the deciding factor of Ohio’s prolific second half was not what it kept its opponent from doing, but what it accomplished in its own right.

The Bobcats almost doubled their first half shooting percentage after the break, converting 61 percent of their attempts from the floor, and knocking down eight of 13 tries.

Three of the drained treys were courtesy of senior guard D.J. Cooper, who lit up the Spiders’ defense in the second half after struggling with his shot in the opening stanza. He finished with 14 points — second to only redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt’s 16.

Cooper knocked down three three-pointers in as many minutes midway through the second half — also setting up junior guard Nick Kellogg with another — to send the Bobcats on what would amount to a 28-7 run from the 12:30 mark on.
Christian said Cooper’s dynamic second half was because of, in part, a more active approach when attacking the hoop.

“He got a little stagnant with the ball in the first half and in the second half he just started to go by guys,” Christian said. “And when he goes by people he’s as good as anybody in the country at finding the next guy.”

Cooper was responsible for four of the Bobcats’ 17 assists, second to only senior forward Ivo Baltic, who had one more.

Offutt labeled Ohio’s ability to drive the hoop and push the ball to the perimeter as reasoning for its second half run, but more so attributed the Bobcats’ offensive success to achievements on the other end of the floor.

“If we’re getting stops, we’re going to make a run,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Ohio’s plan of attack is relatively standard by design, but something outside Xs and Os held the Bobcats together Saturday.

Christian said the game was “won in practice” that led into the weekend. All indications are that the Bobcats have bought in to his message thus far in his inaugural season.

“We’re in this together,” Smith said. “This is my family. I didn’t mind spending extra time with my family.”

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