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After busting Buffalo in final minutes, Ohio travels for BracketBuster match

A change came over the Ohio Bobcats with 10 minutes to go against Buffalo, not only in their play, but also in how the team dealt with closing out a game.

Nick Kellogg forced a jump ball. DeVaughn Washington drew a charging foul. Finally, a D.J. Cooper 3-pointer put Ohio up 72-67 with 1:32 to play as Ohio made big plays when it mattered.

Unlike many of their other close games in Mid-American Conference play, the Bobcats showed confidence and awareness in the closing minutes to defeat the Bulls.

"Coach (John Groce) has really been getting on us about defense in general," Kellogg said. "But he's especially been big on what happens in the last eight minutes. I think we really rose to that challenge Tuesday."

During Ohio's first stint through the MAC East, it lost to Kent State, Buffalo and Miami. All three games were decided by five points or fewer. The Bobcats failed to get defensive stops or make clutch shots in all three.

Tuesday was different. Ohio blanketed Zach Filzen and Byron Mulkey as the pair only sunk four 3-pointers on the game. In the team's first meeting, Filzen alone made six 3s.

Ohio only allowed seven Buffalo baskets in the final 18 possessions to overcome the Bulls. A similar display happened against Ball State when Ohio pulled out a 61-60 win.

"I thought our intensity late and our ability to force turnovers was the real difference in that game," Groce said. " That's the most consistent we've played on defense for a 40-minute stretch."

Although it was only one game, the win could signal a change as the Bobcats head into the final few games of the season.

Buffalo was the first step in the team regaining its confidence against its division opponents. The win helped boost the team's morale, but it isn't getting to them too much as they head into their BracketBuster game against Winthrop Saturday before their final MAC games, Kellogg said.

"It gives us some confidence," Kellogg said. "We just got to take it one at a time, though."

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