When Ohio failed to beat Oklahoma in Norman and fell to their fifth defeat in seven games after an unblemished start, many Bobcat fans were wondering what happened to the team that made a magnificent run to the Sweet 16 a season ago.
It is amazing to see what a difference a week and a half can make.
The Ohio men’s basketball team earned a dream start to Mid-American Conference play with a dominating 86-68 win over the Buffalo Bulls in the Convocation Center.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper had a game-high 21 points for Ohio on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Cooper also dished out seven assists and collected three rebounds. Senior forward Reggie Keely added 19 points for Ohio on 6-of-10 shooting, and the Cleveland native grabbed five rebounds and contributed two assists.
Javon McCrea led the Bulls with 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting. McCrea grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists of his own. Jarryn Skeete and Will Regan were also in double figures for Buffalo, as they scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
With the victory, the Bobcats improved their record to 10-5, and they are 1-0 in the conference. Ohio assisted on 26-of-32 made field goals, and the ‘Cats scored 21 points off of 17 Buffalo turnovers.
Buffalo (5-10, 0-1) has dropped three of its last four games with the loss in Athens. The Bulls out-rebounded the Bobcats by four, 39-35, and they scored 19 second-chance points, compared to Ohio’s eight.
In their last home game against Marshall, Ohio scored the first basket of the game, and never looked back. It took them a little while longer to gain a comfortable lead against the Bulls. After two close-range baskets from McCrea gave Buffalo an early 4-2 lead, Cooper drained his first three-pointer of the night, and set up Ivo Baltic for an easy slam dunk to give Ohio an 11-8 lead with 3:46 gone in the first half.
Two close-range baskets by McCrea and Regan and a three-point make by Tony Watson cut the Ohio lead to one, 20-19, with ten minutes gone in the first half. Even though the game was close early, Ohio went on a monstrous run to leave Buffalo in the dust.
Cooper was the man to ignite the run, as his two deep three-point baskets and his assists to Baltic and Keely guided Ohio to a 32-22 lead with 6:38 left until halftime.
Ohio continued to pour it on late in the first half. Nick Kellogg drained a three-pointer from the left side, and Cooper added another three and a pair of free throws to hand the ‘Cats a 53-31 halftime lead.
Ohio shot 20-of-31 from the field in the first half (64.5 percent), while Buffalo shot 40 percent from the field in the opening stanza (12-of-30). Both teams collected 16 rebounds in the first half, and Ohio scored 22 points in the paint, compared to 18 for Buffalo.
The Bobcats came out slow to start the second half, but they eventually picked up the pace to extend their lead. Keely scored the first six points of the half for Ohio, and back-to-back three-pointers from Hall and Cooper followed by a fast break layup from Stevie Taylor gave the ‘Cats a 69-36 lead with 12:22 left in the contest.
Taylor continued his strong second-half play with a three from the right corner, and Kadeem Green hit a jumper to hand Ohio a commanding 77-45 lead with 7:42 left in the game.
To close out the game, Kellogg hit his second three-pointer of the game, and Jon Smith added a layup and a dunk to give Ohio their second straight win.
Ohio finished the game shooting 9-of-18 from three-point range (50%), and had eight steals in the game. Buffalo had 14 assists in the contest, and had 26 points from their bench.
The Ohio men’s basketball team will look to improve to 2-0 in conference play when they travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan to take on the Western Michigan Broncos on Saturday, Jan. 12. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.