With conference tournaments set to be the main talking point across the college basketball landscape, teams are trying to play their best basketball of the season as they attempt to reach their ultimate goal.
After two losses to Belmont and Akron, the Bobcats (21-8, 12-2 Mid-American Conference) are on the verge of entering the MAC Tournament in Cleveland on the back of another winning streak.
The Ohio Bobcats put their recent struggles behind them to claim a morale-boosting 78-65 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons at the Stroh Center.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about possessions,” Ohio coach Jim Christian said in his post-game radio interview. “Offensively, we played really well today.”
Senior forward Reggie Keely continued his mesmerizing form this season with a 21 point, five rebound and two block performance, while junior guard Nick Kellogg broke out of his shooting slump to score 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Walter Offutt added 12 points for Ohio.
Senior forward A’uston Calhoun led all scorers with 24 points for the Falcons (12-17, 6-8 MAC). He also collected seven rebounds. Jordon Crawford added seven points and seven assists, while Craig Sealey scored nine points off the bench for the hosts.
Ohio secured their first road win over the Falcons since 2007. With his 10 point, five rebound and six assist effort today, senior guard D.J. Cooper is now six points away from becoming the first player in NCAA D-I history to accumulate 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals.
The Falcons have now lost both meetings this season against the Bobcats. Bowling Green did hold a 33-24 rebounding advantage, but also committed 20 turnovers.
The Falcons got off to a bright start in front of their home fans. A Crawford three-pointer and Calhoun jumper gave the Falcons an early 7-2 lead against Ohio.
Just like they have done many times before, Ohio had a big run in them. Powered by Keely and Ricardo Johnson, the ‘Cats went on a 13-0 run to grab a 15-7 lead with 10:53 left in the first half.
A Ricardo Johnson three-point play and a three-point bomb from Kellogg gave Ohio a 27-17 lead with 7:17 left in the first half. Kellogg was relieved to see the ball start going through the hoop.
“When my first three went down, it felt good,” Kellogg said. “My teammates and coaches tell me to shoot the ball when I am open. I let it fly, and it felt good.”
Even though the Bobcats had a comfortable lead, Calhoun did all he could to try and bring his team back into the contest. His three-point play and deep three-pointer right before the buzzer cut Ohio’s lead to six, 39-33, at the break.
Ohio was able to outscore Bowling Green 24-10 in the paint. The Bobcats also had eleven assists in the first stanza, compared to Falcons’ seven. Bowling Green did have a 17-15 rebounding advantage.
Just as they did in the first half, Bowling Green threw the first punch to start the second half. A Luke Kraus three-pointer and Calhoun layup gave Bowling Green a 40-39 lead with 17:10 remaining in the contest.
With the game tied at 42, Keely scored seven straight points to give the Bobcats a 49-42 lead with 13:51 left in the game.
After Bowling Green cut the lead to five, Offutt made a free throw and Kellogg buried a three-pointer to extend Ohio’s lead to nine, 59-50, with 8:27 remaining.
Bowling Green was only down by seven, but three-point bombs from Cooper and Kellogg handed Ohio a 74-61 lead with two minutes left and effectively ended any hope Bowling Green had of causing an upset.
Christian spoke about Kellogg’s impressive performance.
“I am really excited for him,” he said. “We are going to have to shoot the ball well down the stretch.”
Ohio has officially clinched a double bye in the MAC Tournament in Cleveland, something that pleases Kellogg.
“We are grateful and happy that our hard work has gotten us the two seed,” he said. “We have to continue to work hard to gear up for Cleveland.”
The Bobcats will look to win their second straight game when they travel to New York to take on the Buffalo Bulls, March 5. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.