Men's Basketball: Ohio enters competition in exhibition against Mercyhurst

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper drives the basket against Mercyhurst. (Daniel Kubus | For The Post)

Pregame 

In preparation for Saturday's exhibition showdown with Mercyhurst, Ohio emulated a true game week approach, hitting the hardwood for five straight days to shore up its attack in preparation for the Lakers. 

Coach Jim Christian, who is manning the bench for the first time as a Bobcat against Mercyhurst, said that the team's approach has been on keeping itself in tune, rather than turning to the combat the Lakers' schemes.

"We (spent) some time going over what they do and actions they run, but we’ve been doing that all year," he said, heading into the game. "It’s going to be about how we want to play and establishing the stand(ing) in which we want to do it."

A key for the Bobcats will be making their presence known in the paint, as Mercyhurst has a pair of players listed at six foot seven inches.

Junior guard Nick Kellogg said earlier this week that in order for Ohio to establish the offensive attack it's looking to, owning the defensive glass is imperative. 

"Defense and defensive rebounding has always been a key for us," he said. "That leads to transition points because we like to push it. I think it all starts with defensive rebounding."

Mercyhurst finished the 2011-12 season 18-10 overall and 15-7 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. 

Read our game preview here.

Follow The Post Sports and basketball beat reporter Jim Ryan on Twitter for game updates. 

First Half

To the usual tune of Kanye West's "Power" the Bobcats are on the floor. 

Ohio's starters are as follows: senior guard D.J. Cooper, senior guard Walter Offutt, senior forward Ivo Baltic, junior guard Nick Kellogg and redshirt junior forward Jon Smith.

Offutt was the first to gain one of Christian's "identity points," diving for a loose ball two and a half minutes into the game. Lots of energy from both teams. Game's first point was a long step-back two from Cooper. Didn't take long for Ohio to get settled in. 

From there, the teams traded three-point baskets, Kellogg scoring Ohio's.

Five minutes into the game, Kellogg had hit a pair of three-point baskets from the wing already. 

Sophomore guard Stevie Taylor and senior forward Reggie Keely have checked into the game for the first time, as well.

Taylor immediately made an impact, forcing a turnover in the paint and taking it the other way, then feeding Offutt, who popped a three from the corner. 

Transfer Travis Wilkins, a junior guard, has also made his first appearance. Also, junior guard Ricardo Johnson has checked in. 

Ohio is 4-for-6 from downtown in the game. Only a pair of baskets have not been from behind the arc. Ohio leads 16-10 wih 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

Keely made the Bobcats' first signature run-and-gun play of the game with a steal, drive and plus-one opportunity with 11 minutes remaining in the half, finishing the three-point play to put Ohio ahead 19-10.

On the next trip down the floor Offutt picked up his second "identity play" of the game, stuffing a Mercyhurst shot attempt from the top of the key from behind, forcing a jumpball. 

Junior forward T.J. Hall, who had knee surgery in May, has checked in for Ohio. He said earlier in the week that he hoped to play "all season" and that he didn't want to push the pace today. 

A minute or so later, he ball faked and drove the basket succesfully without showing any twinge or holding back. His good health is a positive sign for Ohio.

The Lakers have some talent offensively, as referenced by their good ball movement. Ability to finish may be suspect, as they have went four-for-15 thus far.

Ohio leads 23-13 with 7:18 remaining in the first half, extending its ttreak of not allowing a Mercyhurst basket to more than seven minutes. 

Kellogg has been on fire from beyond the arc today, missing only one of five three-point attempts. 

Johnson went for Ohio's first "fancy" play of the game — a two-handed reverse jam with an open lane — and missed. Sure to displease Christian. His next basket was a layup when he had a clear path to the basket. 

Ohio has 11 turnovers with four minutes remaining in the first half. Not high compared to Mercyhurst's 18, but still a reason for concern for Christian and company. 

The Bobcats have forced a pair of shot clock violations today. The defense has been very stingy, picking up a couple blocks and only allowing four points in the second portion of the half. Exterior protection is key, as Mercyhurst has hit three-of-seven thus far.

Halftime: Ohio 40, Mercyhurst 17

Ohio hit 48 percent of its shots, including 42 percent of its three-point tries, in the first half. Mercyhurst struggled late in the half, scoring only seven points in the last eight minutes. 

The Bobcats were led in the first half by Kellogg, who went five-for-six with four three-pointers for 14 points. 

Keely and Offutt were also productive offensively, contributing a combined 13 points. 

The Lakers did not have any players that topped five points. 

Ohio showed touches of man-to-man, press and zone defense in the opening stanza. 

The press gave Mercyhurst the most trouble, as at several points it had trouble getting the ball across mid-court. 

Second Half

Keely, Offut, Baltic, Cooper and Kellogg get the second half start for Ohio. Keely puts home two straight buckets to begin the half. He was quickly replaced by Hall after picking up a foul, though.

Hall avenged Johnson's first half missed dunk with a powerful two-handed slam on a behind-the-back dish from Cooper with less than 16 minutes remaining in the game to put Ohio ahead 53-21. 

The Bobcats found their touch in the paint early in the second half, pushing the pace for several inside baskets, highlighted by a powerful slam from Smith, who was forced to hang on the rim for several seconds because of a downed Mercyhurst player. 

Baltic also established a post game for the first time in the game, putting back a pair of turnaround post moves for four points.

Kellogg tacked on to his team-high scoring total with another three-pointer, his fifth in seven tries, with 9:30 remaining in the game. 

Ohio led 68-37 at that point.

Ohio senior guard David McKinley checked in for Cooper inside the nine minute mark. Cooper had a relatively quiet game offensively, finishing with seven points, but he had nine assists and four steals while commanding the floor with authority throughout the game. 

Keely was a force in the paint in the second half, adding to his seven first half points with eight more by the three-minute mark. He was perfect in seven attempts from the charity stripe at that point, as well.

Smith added to the interior presence with a brutish rebound-and-reverse finish putback with 2:50 remaining in the contest. 

Final: Ohio 82, Mercyhurst 42

 

Kellogg: 7-for-9, 19 points

Keely: 3-for-5, 13 points, 4 rebounds, 7-for-7 FT

Offutt: 3-for-6, 10 points, 2 rebounds

Cooper: 3-for-5, 7 points, 9 assists, 4 steals

 

Reactions

"We didn’t play our best out there. We obviously won by 40 points, but we have bigger goals than to beat Mercyhurst. So we have to think about things we did wrong." — Offutt, on Ohio's takeaway from the game

"I think our first goal, obviously, is to continue to get better every day in practice. Then our next goal is to get through nonconference and play the best we can do. My first real goal is a MAC regular season title." — Offutt, on Ohio's season goals

"Coach talked about at halftime (how) we were on top of our game defensively but not so much offensively. Obviously defense starts with attitude, effort and intensity, and for the most part I thought we did that for 40 minutes." — Kellogg, on Ohio's defensive play

"We have a very mature group of guys and it’s fun to be around them every day. The one thing they’re learning about me is that I’m pretty much the same every day. I like to have fun, I like to enjoy it and I want to work hard." — Christian on consistency, team mood

"I think he was the byproduct today of a lot of guys making good decisions at the right time." — Christian, on Kellogg's 19-point performance

"I’m always going to be more concerned with the response than the action. The response was: second half, better job (on the) defensive board. Better job (on the) offensive board.  Better job limiting turnovers." — Christian on limiting turnovers, especially in the first half.

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