Updated Sat, Nov 10, 2012 8:32 pm
Jim Christian earned his first regular season win in the Convocation Center since February 2007, only this time he was coaching for Ohio. Christian’s debut was one to celebrate for the Bobcats as they took down Portland 81-52 after a pregame ceremony for the team’s trip to the Sweet Sixteen last season.
Guards D.J. Cooper and Nick Kellogg led the Bobcats with 18 points apiece, shooting a combined 7 for 9 from three. Kellogg went 4 for 4 from beyond the arc. Cooper also added six assists and five rebounds.
Most of the Bobcats’ offense came in the second half, where they punished the Pilots 48-19. Ohio shot more than 20 percent better in the second half than it did in the first.
“I think it’s only normal to get caught up in the emotion,” said Kellogg of the first game, “and just forget about fundamentals and X’s and O’s and just feed off the hype. But I think we did a better job in the second half of settling down and getting back to our game.”
Ohio began the second half hot when Ivo Baltic relayed a steal to Walter Offutt who fed it back to Baltic for a dunk. Baltic went just 1 for 9 from the field in the first half, but managed to turn things around. He shot 4 for 5 in the second half to finish with 10 points.
The Bobcats blew the game wide open with a 21-4 run in the first seven minutes of the second half and didn’t look back from then on. Aside from the increased shooting percentage, the ‘Cats clamped down on defense holding Portland to 19 points on 29 percent shooting.
“We were really fundamental (on defense) in the second half,” said Christian, “being in the right spots. And that’s how we make plays.”
And make plays they did. The Bobcats kept with the trend of last season with a high turnover differential. Ohio finished +11 in the turnover column, which sparked its offense to open up a lead. The ‘Cats outscored the Pilots by 25 in points off turnovers.
The first half, however, was not quite as successful for Ohio. Portland opened the game with a 16-8 lead. It took a Kellogg three around the 13-minute mark to put Ohio back in the game. That shot started a 11-0 run to give the Bobcats the lead.
The Pilots persisted and mustered as much as a six-point lead before allowing Cooper to tie the game on a layup with 21 seconds remaining in the half. After Baltic’s dunk to start the second half, the Bobcats never trailed.
“I have so much confidence in this team,” said Christian. “I think the one thing that they’ll see from me is that I very rarely get rattled. If they see me get rattled, then I think they’re going to panic. And I didn’t because I have confidence in what they’re doing.”
Christian’s team performed well to start the season in front of what was close to a sell-out crowd, a crowd which he very much appreciated. He said he hadn’t played in front of such a large contingency of home fans in a long time.
“The band, they’re in midseason form,” he said. “The O-Zone’s in midseason form. We’ve just got to catch up. And we will.”
The Bobcats next chance at “catching up” comes at home Friday, Nov. 16 against North Carolina Wilmington, the second of six consecutive home games to start the season for Ohio.