Updated Sat, Dec 15, 2012 11:52 pm
After a week that included rigorous final exams and zero games, the Ohio men’s basketball team took the court at home against a struggling Winthrop Eagles team. Ohio (7-3) came into Saturday’s game riding a 16 game home winning streak dating back to a loss against Robert Morris on January 2, 2012, but the streak came to an abrupt end as Winthrop (4-4) downed the ‘Cats 50-49 in a nail biter.
Physical, smothering defensive play was the tone of the game from the opening minutes. Both teams struggled to hit shots all night in what was a low scoring defensive battle up to the final second. Ohio struggled to connect on shots all night, something that didn’t go unnoticed.
“Our three best players were all cold at the same time,” said a visibly frustrated Ohio head coach Jim Christian after the game. “We didn’t get a lift from the bench that we’ve been getting from an energy stand point.”
Despite going into halftime with the lead, Ohio trailed most of the second half after Winthrop came out hot to the tune of a 9-0 run to gain a 29-25 lead. The ‘Cats clawed their way back into it, but it was too little, too late. With 4.7 seconds left on the clock and trailing by one, Ohio had a chance to win the game. D.J. Cooper threw up a three right before the buzzer hit. It bounced off the rim as the clock hit zero, capping a frustrating loss.
“It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. I’d have to look at the tape and see if what we were looking for was open or not. He (Cooper) is a guy, who hits big shots, (but) it should never come down to that,” said Christian when asked about the final play of the game.
The game started off with tough, fast-paced play from both sides. Winthrop’s guards made it impossible for Ohio’s backcourt to find an open shot and challenged the ‘Cats to play inside. Ohio senior forward’s Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic answered the challenge to the tune of 12 points for Keely and eight boards for Baltic in the first half.
Keely scored on a little hook shot from under rim to tie the game at five all early in the first half, ending a five minute scoring drought for Ohio. Keely, who was on fire for much of the first half, followed up 30 seconds later scoring in the post again to give Ohio the 7-5 lead.
After Winthrop tied the game up a few seconds later, Ohio’s Travis Wilkins drained a three from the top of the key with just over 12 minutes left on the clock putting Ohio back up, 10-7.
Keely continued his hot streak scoring again on a jumper from just outside the paint, giving him six points in just under two minutes.
Sloppy play and two quick fouls by Jon Smith, gave Winthrop some momentum. Junior forward Joab Jerome brought the Eagles within one at the 8:45 mark on a layup. Keely responded big once more, scoring four points on two layups in the next 50 seconds to give Ohio a three point lead with eight minutes left on the clock.
With much of the game being fought out inside the paint and junior forward Jon Smith in foul trouble in the first half, Ohio head coach Jim Christian turned to his bench to call on 6-foot 8-inch forward Kadeem Green to enter the game with just over six minutes left on the clock. It marked the first time since transferring from Missouri in March that the sophomore had stepped on the court as a Bobcat. Green grabbed a board and scored two points in his three minutes on the court and helped spark a ‘Cats offense that went into half up five, 25-20.
Still, it was clear from the start that it just wasn’t Ohio’s day. The team came out struggling early in the second half as their shooting woes continued. With 17:08 left on the clock, Winthrop took the lead and never gave it back thanks in part to a 9-0 run for the Eagles to start the half.
“We turned the ball over way too much. Many of them unforced, especially in transition, then we just never got into a good rhythm shooting the basketball,” said Christian on the offensive woes.
Ohio’s offensive struggles continued until junior guard Ricardo Johnson brought the game to within one after converting a free throw with 15:26 left. Winthrop’s sophomore guard Andre Smith, who finished the game with 10 points and three assists, drained a three from the top of the key a few seconds later to put Winthrop back up by four.
Back-to-back threes by Kellogg and T.J. Hall cut Winthrop’s lead to two a few minutes later.
However, the starters’ scoring woes continued to be an issue as Winthrop’s forwards effectively shut Keely down in the second half, holding him to just two points and zero rebounds in the second half.
Cooper, who came into Saturday’s game leading Ohio in points per game with nearly 15, scored his first point of the game with 7:34 left on the clock on a free throw, after missing his first. Cooper finished the game with just eight points and three assists on 3-12 from the field. Cooper brought the ‘Cats within two, with 6:33 on the clock.
Baltic scored his first and only points on the game with just over three minutes of play left in the game when he hit a fade away jumper from about 12 feet out. The senior finished the game with a season-high 11 rebounds, two points and three assists but, like Keely, was a non-factor in the second half.
Ohio refused to quit though, and with 2:39 on the clock Cooper, like he’s done countless times in the past, nailed a big three from the top of the key to cut the Eagles lead to two. Eagles guard Gideon Gamble fouled Cooper going for the rebound on the following play sending Cooper to the line. Cooper stood at the line with a one-and-one attempt to tie the game up at 49 all, but he edbrick the first shot giving the Eagles possession.
After missing yet another three and with just 35 seconds left on the clock, Cooper drove to the lane and put it in, tying the game at 49 apiece and giving the ‘Cats a fighting chance.
Walter Offutt, who finished the game going 0-6 from the field with just two points and two rebounds, was called for a foul on Henry sending him to the line with 4.7 seconds left and a chance to win the game. Henry missed the first but sank the second putting Winthrop up 50-49 with 4.7 left on the clock and leaving the crowd sitting on the edge of their seats.
After Baltic inbounded the ball, Cooper ran the stretch of the floor and missed a three from right in front of the Ohio bench right as the buzzer hit to give Winthrop its first win against a Division-I opponent this season.
"It's tough. Obviously anytime you lose, it’s tough, especially at home. You have to give a lot of credit to them (Winthrop), they played well. But we just weren't on top of our game today. We're not going to panic or anything, we're just going to look in the mirror and try and get better,” said Kellogg after the game.
The ‘Cats, who were plagued all game by turnover issues – 18 total – saw their 16 game home winning streak came to a crashing halt, just a few days before they head on the road to face a tough UMass team.
“We have to learn from the things that we didn’t do well here. Get guys in the gym, get them shots and come out with a little different mindset,” said Christian.
Ohio will take on the Minutemen Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., as they look to bounce back from what was undoubtedly their most disappointing loss on the season.