Men's Basketball: Coach: ’Cats must maintain momentum

Ohio’s Reggie Keely attempts a shot during Ohio’s game against Western Michigan Jan. 25. The Bobcats defeated the Broncos 56-51 and will host Central Michigan on Saturday. (Brien Vincent | Staff Photographer)

The past few years, a win was a win for the Bobcats. But with 18 victories in 22 games this season, some wins stand out as more impressive than others.

Take, for example, the five-game stretch in December during which Ohio beat Oakland on the road, held three straight opponents to 54 points and then demolished Northern Iowa on its home court. The Bobcats (18-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) looked impenetrable and quickly climbed in the Ratings Percentage Index rankings.

Then Ohio started the new year on a shaky note, as it lost three of four contests to open 2012. The team has since won five straight conference games, but only the home win against Kent State featured the domination that the Bobcats displayed earlier in the season.

Ohio’s latest win came against Northern Illinois, which has the seventh-lowest RPI of the 344 teams playing Division I men’s basketball. The Bobcats trailed the Huskies by seven points in the first half before nabbing a 67-58 road victory.

“I feel like people are trying to find the negative things,” said junior point guard D.J. Cooper, who put up a season-low four points against the Huskies. “Teams are going to fight back sometimes. They’re Division I teams as well, so we just have to contain their runs. We try to go on bigger runs than other teams go on.”

Those runs constitute battles in a 40-minute war, said coach John Groce. Each four-minute stretch is a chapter that leads to the final result, and the team that makes the most out of the most chapters often wins the game.

And, in a conference like the MAC, being the favorite on paper does not mean being the better team on the floor.

“It’s a game of momentum, and Clark Kellogg calls it ‘spurtability,’ ” Groce said. “You’re not just going to beat somebody by 40 points and show up and beat them by 4 points every war for ten wars and win by 40. That just don’t happen, not in this league.”

Through close wins and blowouts, Ohio is off to its best start in MAC play since the 2007-2008 season. And with at least 10 games left on the schedule, Ohio has a legitimate chance to top the program’s record of 25 wins in a season.

Next up for the Bobcats is a home contest against Central Michigan on Saturday. The Chippewas (7-14, 2-6 MAC) won their first two MAC contests but have lost their last six, and they would like nothing better than to break their fall against one of the MAC’s most successful programs.

“We’re going to go through stretches where we make runs, the opponent makes runs, and you’ve got to deal with all that,” Groce said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to find a way to finish the game. We’ve done that fairly well all season.”

ms229908@ohiou.edu
 

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