Updated Wed, Dec 7, 2011 10:43 pm
Maybe "ugly but effective" is the theme of the early portion of the 2011-12 season. But however Ohio is doing it, it's working.
After leading by eight points with just over a minute remaining, Ohio (6-1) had to hang on once again to win at Oakland (MI) 84-82.
"The biggest thing for me," Ohio head coach John Groce said. "People that don't follow college basketball have no idea how good (Oakland) is and how hard it is to win in here."
The Golden Grizzlies (6-3) had won 41 of its last 43 home games, including a win over Tennessee in Rochester, Mich. on Nov. 28.
Groce added: "The biggest thing people back home need to understand is that this is a heck of a win. Heck of a win."
D.J. Cooper led Ohio with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes, and Ohio's bench outscored Oakland 42-8.
But a handful of Bobcat leads evaporated, as has been the case through Ohio's 6-1 start (the best start since 2005, when Ohio started 13-3). The 'Cats led by seven at the halftime break, gave that away (Oakland led by five less than five minutes into the second half) and saw its eight-point lead nearly crumble away in the closing minutes.
"We just didn't finish a couple plays we needed to finish there," Ohio's fourth-year head coach said. "I've got confidence guys will finish moving forward. They're pretty resilient."
With 14.3 seconds left and Ohio leading by two points, Travis Bader (21 points) drove to the right side of the lane and had his shot partially blocked by Ohio's T.J. Hall.
That late stop marks the second game in the last three in which Ohio has needed a defensive play to seal a win. Walter Offutt altered DeAndre Kane's last-second attempt at a tie at Marshall nine days ago.
"At the end of the day," Groce said. "If you can get stops at critical junctures and times, that's going to give you a great chance to win ball games, especially if you get them in that last four-minute war."
Ohio shot 12-27 from three-point range, but had no answer for Oakland's freshman center Corey Petros, who measures up at 6-foot-9, 243 pounds. Petros finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
"He's a terrific red-shirt freshman and we had no answer for him," Groce added. "We were so fearful of (Reggie) Hamilton and (Travis) Bader that we made the decision not to double the post, and I'll give him credit, he sealed us down there…boy does he have a bright future."
Hamilton, Bader and Petros combined for 67 of Oakland's 82 points, but Ohio won the rebounding battle 33-32 over the Grizzlies.
Reggie Keely scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench, and Stevie Taylor and Hall notched 13 and 10, respectively.
Next up for Ohio on the season's longest road trip is a plane ride to Portland, Ore. to play the Portland Pilots (3-5).
The thing I like most is that we got hit in the mouth to start the game and responded," Groce said. "We still kept battling, our body language was good…I think that's a sign of maturity and growth for sure."