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Ohio’s Jon Smith attempts a dunk against Buffalo players at The Convo. The Bobcats won 60-52 during the game Jan. 11 and beat the Bulls against Wednesday night. Their next contest is against the Zips at 8 p.m. Sunday at The Convo. (JOEL BISSELL | For The Post)

Men's Basketball: Bobcats buck Bulls to regain 2nd place

Coach John Groce demands toughness from his squad regardless of the venue, but Ohio’s rebounding performance Wednesday surpassed his expectations.

The Bobcats won a Mid-American Conference game on the road for only the second time in six tries, but their complete effort in the 88-77 victory against the Bulls comes at a time when teams want to peak to put themselves in prime position for postseason play.

Buffalo entered the game with the fourth-best rebounding margin in the country, as the Bulls averaged eight more boards than their opponents each game. But Ohio (22-6, 9-4 MAC) turned the tables by out-rebounding Buffalo 42-34.

“The rebounding battle, I wouldn’t have been able to guess that we’d be plus-eight on the glass,” Groce said.

Ohio finds itself in a three-way tie for second place in the MAC East with Kent State and Buffalo. The Bobcats own the tiebreaker against the Bulls and will visit the Golden Flashes next Wednesday.

The Bobcats won every major statistical category against the Bulls except field-goal percentage. But Ohio overcame that disadvantage with a season-high 21 offensive rebounds, leading to a season-high 75 field-goal attempts. Buffalo mustered only 55 shots from the field.

“They just totally destroyed us on the glass,” Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “What they did to us to get offensive rebounds, we obviously just can’t allow that to happen. They came in with the mindset that they were going to do whatever they could to get offensive rebounds.”

Ohio also took care of business from the free-throw line. The Bobcats converted on 20 of their 21 shots from the line to notch a season high in free-throw percentage.

The Bobcats handily won the turnover battle by coughing up the ball only eight times all night. Their bench poured in 24 points while the Bulls’ reserves only contributed 10.

“I always expect us to play well,” Groce said. “We prepare to win. That’s what we do. Tonight we executed fairly well.”

Junior guard Walter Offutt led the Bobcats offensively with a career-high 23 points and tacked on seven rebounds in 37 minutes on the floor. Junior point guard D.J. Cooper added 20 points, and Nick Kellogg provided another 15 — all in the second half.

Ohio’s 88-point performance was their highest offensive output in a regulation conference game since Feb. 11, 2010 against Central Michigan. Their 51 second-half points were the most in any half this season.

“That enabled us to win the possession battle,” Groce said. “I thought our offense played as well as it’s played in a long time tonight.”

Sophomore guard Ricardo Johnson sat out Wednesday’s contest because of a back injury he sustained in practice. Groce listed Johnson as day-to-day and said the injury was “muscular in nature.”

The Bobcats return to Athens to face the first-place Akron Zips Sunday night in the final regular-season game at The Convo this season.

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