Updated Sun, Nov 25, 2012 5:09 pm
Ohio earned a hard-fought win against arguably its toughest opponent of the season thus far, defeating Richmond 73-48. The Bobcats (5-0) used a 46-18 second half run to put the Spiders under after a rocky start.
Ohio’s starters came to play Saturday night, scoring nearly 85 percent of the team’s points. Walter Offutt led the way for the ‘Cats with 16. Jon Smith turned in his best performance of the season with 13 points and six rebounds.
Richmond (4-2) punched the ‘Cats in the mouth to start the game, getting out to a quick 11-5 lead in the first seven minutes. Ohio turned the ball over five times in that stretch and made only two shots from the field, layups by Smith and Ivo Baltic.
Hardly anything was unexpected when the Spiders started the game hot. The Spiders are in the hunt for the Atlantic-10 title year in and year out and have made the tournament two of the past three seasons, making it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.
“It’s a very big win,” said head coach Jim Christian. “I think Richmond’s an excellent team. And, as I told our team, their team has been to the Sweet Sixteen as well, so they’re not going to be a team that’s going to give in.”
Ohio learned exactly the strength of its opponent with 11:03 left in the first half. Wayne Sparrow snatched the ball from Reggie Keely, kicking it to one of the Spiders’ leading scorers, Darien Brothers, for a three-point basket with D.J. Cooper in his face.
The Bobcats then embarked on a systematic breakdown of the Richmond front, slowly picking away at the Spiders’ lead by penetrating their defense. Smith played a large role in the run, not just scoring points, but creating points.
Travis Wilkins missed a short corner jumper at the 10:55 mark, but Smith was able to fend off Richmond defenders to snatch the rebound. He handed the ball to a cutting Offutt and, in doing so, set an inadvertent screen allowing Offutt a clean layup.
Two Ohio possessions later, Nick Kellogg missed an open three. Smith made his way through several Spiders defenders to tap the ball to Baltic, who then kicked it back out to Kellogg for three.
“Jon is one of the best I’ve been around at fighting around guys and getting them off the block,” said Christian.
T.J. Hall gave Ohio the lead with a three-point basket at the 4:25 mark, but Richmond quickly regained its advantage, carrying a three-point lead into the half.
“It wasn’t anything [the Spiders] were doing,” said Christian of being down at halftime for the first time this season. “We held them to their lowest point total in a half. And I knew if we just kept our aggressive mentality, we’d make plays.”
And make plays, the ‘Cats did. Smith was the one making plays for the Bobcats to start the half, picking up right where he left off in the first. Smith hit a layup to open the second-half scoring, followed by a two-handed put-back slam on a missed layup by Offutt. Smith then received a dish from Baltic to put in a layup plus the subsequent foul shot.
The Bobcats then cranked up the tempo and got out to a six-point lead, their first of the half and the only one they would need to finish the game off. Cooper nailed a three with 14:03 to go, followed by a Kellogg three. The next possession, Cooper hit Ohio’s third consecutive shot from beyond the arc. Cooper and Kellogg finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“If we’re getting stops, we’re going to make a run,” said Offutt. “It’s as simple as that. If we’re getting stops, we’re going to make a run and find ways to put the ball in the basket.”
Ohio had no trouble putting the ball in the basket in the second half. After shooting just 33 percent in the first, the Bobcats drained 60 percent of their shots in the second, a sharp turnaround.
Richmond’s offense remained concentrated on three players for the duration of the game. Brothers, Derrick Williams and Kendall Anthony were the only players to put points on the board for the Spiders, a credit to Ohio’s defensive intensity and valuable depth.
The Bobcats defend their undefeated record against St. Bonaventure (3-1) in the last of six consecutive home games to start the season. The Bonnies won the A-10 Tournament last season and lost to Flordia State by three in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Ohio and St. Bonaventure are set to tip at 7:00 p.m.