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Men's Basketball: Tough defense propels Ohio to victory

The only thing more prolific than Ohio’s 3-point offense Saturday was its five-star defense.

The Bobcats used exceptional ball movement and stellar defense to shut down the Central Michigan Chippewas in a 68-42 victory at The Convo.

Ohio (19-4, 7-2 Mid-American Conference) led wire-to-wire and gave Central Michigan’s defense fits with its plethora of 3-point attempts.  The Chippewas (7-15, 2-7 MAC) never established an offensive rhythm and tied its season-low for points.

Ohio had not held an opponent to 42 points since the 2010 MAC Tournament against Miami.

“I thought the best thing we did was play close to a 40-minute game,” coach John Groce said. “I felt pretty good about our effort and our attitude.”

The Bobcats opened the game with six 3-point attempts in the first three minutes, and the pace only slowed slightly for the rest of the half. Central Michigan’s zone defense could not keep up with Ohio’s ball movement, which was orchestrated by point guard D.J. Cooper, who finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

The Chippewas stayed in the game thanks to Ohio’s inability to sink wide-open shots from long range. The Bobcats made only four of their 20 3-point attempts in the first half before going 7-for-10 in the second. 

“It feels good to knock down a couple shots,” sophomore guard Nick Kellogg said. “Coach never tells us to turn down wide-open shots.”

Junior guard Walter Offutt led the way with a 4-for-6 performance from behind the arc and finished with a game-high 17 points.

Ohio built a 20-point lead by the midpoint of the second half, but the team had a scare when Cooper injured his left wrist with 5:45 to play. Cooper doubled over in pain before gingerly walking to the sideline, but Groce said the injury did not look to be as serious as it could be.

“We’ll X-ray it for sure,” he said. “(Team athletic trainer Annika Ludewig) thinks it looks pretty favorable, that it was just a sprain.”

Both teams finished with two scorers in double figures, but only Ohio had solid support off the bench. The Bobcats’ reserves outscored the Chippewas’ backups 22-4.

Star guard Trey Zeigler managed only 10 points for Central Michigan, which shot only 29 percent from the field. Forward Olivier Mbaigoto led the Chippewas with 14.

“I think we’re getting better defending,” Offutt said. “Obviously, rebounding has to get better. I think defense has continued to get better each game.”

Ohio stretched its winning streak to six games after starting the MAC schedule 1-2. Next up are road trips to Toledo and Eastern Michigan, where the Bobcats will try to replicate Saturday’s defensive effort.

“I think that just goes along with finishing the game out, being mature, being able to maintain that effort and attitude and toughness level that we had,” Kellogg said. “I think that was a big step for us.”

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