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Ohio guard D.J. Cooper tries to dribble past Miami's Quinten Rollins during a game at Millett Hall Friday. Ohio lost to Miami, 76-66. (Alex Goodlett | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Men's Baketball: Bobcats lose Battle of the Bricks to Miami, 76-66

Frustration. Desperation. Disappointment. All three emotions were featured on D.J. Cooper’s face during the waning minutes against Miami.

No matter how much Cooper attempted to drive and make things happen against the RedHawks, Miami point guard Quinten Rollins was right there to pressure him and take him out of his element. Cooper’s struggle summed up the Bobcats’ hassles, as they never found an offensive rhythm during a 76-66 loss Friday night at Millett Hall.

“For the most part, I just wanted to keep him in front,” Rollins said. “I knew if we stopped him that we’d be able to stop a lot of the things Ohio wanted to do offensively.”

Even on a hurt foot, Rollins constantly bothered Cooper every time he attempted to create on offense. Cooper looked frustrated numerous times as he walked down the court after failed possessions.

He was called for a technical foul in the first half and yelled at the team as the Bobcats walked into the locker room at halftime.

With Cooper struggling, Ohio rarely found offensive rhythm. Senior Tommy Freeman added to the problems by shooting 2-of-8 on 3-pointers, uncharacteristic for a 45 percent shooter on the season

“We missed some shots that we don’t normally miss,” coach John Groce said. “Certainly Miami guarded us well. Obviously when you shoot 38 percent, they have a big hand in that.”

Most of the offense came from inside, where Ivo Baltic constantly created space for open bank-in shots and layups. Baltic finished with 18 points.

“That kid is going to be pretty close to going pro someday,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said.

Needing to make up a 10-point halftime deficit, Ohio came out strong in the second half. Ivo Baltic spun and sunk a dazzling bank-in shot, while Cooper hit a runner that bounced in to cut the deficit to six.

But Julian Mavunga came alive for the RedHawks as he knocked down two baskets to re-extend the lead. Mavunga dominated the second half, constantly forcing fouls as he finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and shot 15-of-17 from the free throw line.

“Coach just told me I have to use less finesse and more power in the second half,” Mavunga said. “Others told me too, ‘You just got to go’.”

Down by over 10 for most of the half, the Bobcats never could pull close to Miami as the RedHawks constantly responded. Mavunga’s aggressiveness along with Rollins’ emergence offensively kept the Bobcats at bay before time ran out in the contest.

The Bobcats missed the chance at the No. 3 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament with the loss, but still can obtain a first-round bye with some help from other teams.

“The biggest thing my team needs right now, quite honestly, is a day off,” Groce said. “Tomorrow they’ll get that and we’ll prepare Sunday and Monday hard and be ready to play hard next week.”

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