It’s been said that basketball is a game of runs, and on Tuesday evening, Ohio went on the game’s biggest, a 20-2 burst over the final 6:35 of the first half vs. Hampton. Ohio held on to defeat the feisty Pirates 75-67.
Senior guard Walter Offutt had his best game of the season, leading the way with 23 points and three steals, and Ivo Baltic added 16 points and three blocks to help the Bobcats improve to 4-0.The game was a change of pace for the Bobcats who were challenged for the first time on the young season.
Ohio was outrebounded 43-26 and gave up 20 offensive boards to the Pirates, who dropped to 0-3 with the loss.
“I think we just got punked,” said Baltic on the alarming rebounding disparity. “I don’t think we were boxing out we were just going in there expecting to get the rebound.”
“To me the season started tonight,” said Ohio head coach Jim Christian. “We got tested. I give Hampton a lot of credit I thought they out-toughed us tonight on the glass, it wasn’t even close. We weren’t physical enough but at the same time we executed enough on the offensive end to win the game when we had to, so I give our team a lot of credit for that.”
Christian can thank his seniors for this win. Along with Offutt and Baltic’s strong performances, star point guard D.J. Cooper chipped in 12 points, seven assists and three steals. Also, Reggie Keely continued his strong start with eight points and six rebounds off the bench.
Offutt, who was averaging just 6.3 points because of his struggles with foul trouble in the first three contests, scored 15 of his 23 in the first half, including 11 points during the decisive 20-2 run. Offutt attacked the basket early and often and was able to get to the foul line. Offutt made the Pirates pay, making 13 of his 15 free throw attempts on the night.
“It was just one of them games where they were pressing up on us a lot and I was able to get to the hole quite a bit to help my team,” said Offutt, who received a standing ovation from the Bobcat faithful when he headed to the bench for a few minutes of rest at the end of the half.
Offutt’s dominance wasn’t limited to the offensive end. He drew several charges and continually sacrificed his body diving for loose balls. Offutt’s effort helped the Bobcats force 24 turnovers.
The first half was back and forth for the first 14 minutes. Ohio established an early 17-12 lead thanks to its outside shooting prowess but the Pirates responded with a 7-0 run of their own. Hampton played solid man-to-man defense and cut off penetration from the Ohio guards to stay in the game.
After trading baskets, the Bobcats finally found their groove late in the half. Cooper made a signature no-look pass to Keely for a layup and Offutt added a three-point play during a 15-0 spurt as the Bobcats suddenly took a 39-25 lead.
The Bobcats continued to push the pace, running the fast break to perfection for a Baltic layup before the senior forward beat the buzzer with his second corner three pointer of the half. The 20-2 run opened up a 44-27 for Ohio heading to the break. The Bobcats turned 14 Pirates turnovers into 21 first half points. However, Ohio was unable to sustain the momentum.
The Bobcats came out slow in the second half, turning the ball over four times in the first four-plus minutes as the Pirates climbed to within nine as the Bobcats lost their cool. Baltic and Keely picked up technical fouls 35 seconds apart as the Pirates went on a 6-0 run. The fans showed their displeasure with the calls, booing the refs mercilessly for the rest of the game.
Hampton’s speed outside and strength inside allowed them to stay close the entire second half and climbed to within 69-61 with 2:39 to play.
Baltic responded with a quick right-handed hook shot to give Ohio a 10-point lead and sealed the deal with a steal a minute later.
“We’re happy that we won but we’re disappointed with the way we played, especially on defense,” said Baltic.
The Bobcats will look to stay undefeated when they host Richmond (4-1) at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon. The Spiders are coming off a six-point win over Wofford, who the Bobcats beat by 23 on Sunday.