Following a 3-1 record on an unexpected 4-game road trip across the Mid-American Conference, the Ohio Bobcats were eager to return home to the Convocation Center.
In a matchup featuring two potent guard-forward combinations, Ohio’s dynamic duo was able to have the last laugh.
The Ohio Bobcats continued their winning ways at the Convocation Center with a hard-fought 72-63 victory against MAC East rival Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon.
“In mid-February, you have to find ways to win games,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. “We did what we had to do tonight, and now we have to get ready for Wednesday.”
Senior point guard D.J. Cooper scored 10 points for the Bobcats on 3-of-7 shooting. He also dished out eight assists and had one steal. Senior forward Reggie Keely added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Walter Offutt and T.J. Hall both chipped in with 12 points for the Bobcats.
Bowling Green forward A’uston Calhoun led all scorers with 19 points. He also collected eight rebounds. Guard Jordon Crawford scored 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He hit four three-pointers and dished out four assists. Craig Sealey and Richaun Holmes both added 8 points apiece.
In the first half, Bowling Green was able to hang around against the hosts. After layups by Keely and Cooper and a three-point make by Offutt handed Ohio an early 10-4 lead, a layup and jumper from Holmes tied the game at 12 with 13:53 remaining until halftime.
Ohio (17-6, 7-1 MAC) was able to open up a 23-16 lead courtesy of a jumper from Baltic and a three-pointer from Travis Wilkins with 9:09 left in the first half.
Bowling Green (9-14, 4-6 MAC) would cut the deficit to one, 35-34, heading into halftime. Crawford threw a perfect alley-oop to Sealey for a two-hand slam, and Sealey’s layup with 24 seconds remaining was the last basket of the half.
Ohio was able to shoot 46 percent in the first half (12-of-26), but the Falcons out-scored the Bobcats 20-10 in the paint, and scored 11 points off turnovers, compared to Ohio’s two.
In the second half, Ohio was able to pull away thanks to increased effort on the defensive end. T.J. Hall, starting his second consecutive game for Ohio, hit a three-pointer to give the ‘Cats a 42-36 lead. The advantage increased to 11 with five minutes gone in the second half thanks to layups from Keely and Hall.
“We picked up our effort and level of play,” Keely said about the defensive effort. “We got after it in the second half.”
Bowling Green head coach Louis Orr had the same thoughts.
“We battled in the first half and gave ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “Turnovers and points off turnovers were the difference in the game. We took too many bad shots in the second half, and you cannot give teams like Ohio an opportunity to go on runs like they did.”
The Bobcats were able to increase their lead to as much as 16 points in the second half courtesy of close-range shots by Keely and a three-point bomb from Cooper.
“When the game needed to be won, we competed,” Christian said. “We got extra possessions and did a much better job on the offensive glass.”
Things did get chippy at the end with Cooper and Crawford both picking up technical fouls, but Orr says it is just the nature of the game.
“This is a competitive sport,” he said. “These guys have been playing against each other for 3 to 4 years now. It was an emotional game.”
Cooper also had thoughts about the end of the game between these two rivals.
“Both teams want the same thing, which is a higher seed in the MAC Tournament,” he said. “This sort of thing happens in games.”
The Ohio Bobcats will look to make it three straight wins when they travel to Mount Pleasant to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas on Wednesday, February 13. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.