Updated Sun, Jan 27, 2013 10:59 am
Jim Christian’s return the MAC Center nearly gave the Ohio head coach a heart-attack, but he got his 62nd win in the arena after Kent State guard Randal Holt missed a last-second runner three-feet from the basket. The Bobcats left Saturday’s game 6-0 in the Mid-American Conference, defeating Kent State, 69-68.
The final two minutes: The Golden Flashes were able to narrow the eight-point lead Ohio had built in the eight minute mark, and it was a back-and-forth contest with both teams trading buckets.
Down one with 1:57 left D.J. Cooper (23 points, 5 assists) delivered a beautiful pass to Reggie Keely (20 points) under the basket to give Ohio the one-point lead. It was the second straight possession for Ohio where Cooper hit Keely with a no-look dish.
The Flashes didn’t give up, though. Guard Kris Brewer hit a layup to put Kent State up one with 1:14 left, which raised the crowd to their feet and the MAC Center was rocking.
That’s when Cooper took over. The senior said after the game he loves to have the ball in his hands late in games, shown when he drove and was fouled by Melvin Tabb while going up for a layup.
Cooper nailed both free throws with ease, which ended up being the final points of the night for both teams. In the next possession for Kent State, forward Chris Evans’ drive was halted by Walter Offutt and ended up taking too many steps, called for a travel.
The play Christian drew up in the final possession was stopped by Kent State, as Offutt didn’t have a lane to drive the ball and gave it back to Cooper who shot a contested a three-pointer. The miss was rebounded by Holt and taken down the court where Ivo Baltic met him at the three-point line and halted his free drive to the basket. Holt’s shot rimmed out and time expired. The Bobcats escaped with the one-point victory.
First half foul trouble: Christian was not a fan of the refs in the early going. They were letting both teams play physical inside, and Cooper was frustrated when there was a no-call after making a floater. Cooper was given a technical foul and was on the bench for most of the half with two fouls.
Offutt joined Cooper on the bench after picking up an intentional offensive foul on a questionable call. Evans, the player who Offutt elbowed in the face, exaggerated the blow, thus taking Offutt out of the game with two fouls.
Evans was helping Kent State from all over the court in the first half, scoring 14 points and shooting 4-of-4 from the floor. The Bobcats held him to only six points in the second half. Ohio also contained Holt to five points in the second after allowing him to score nine in the first.
Road shooting woes continue: Ohio entered the game shooting 36.9% from three on the road, and their struggles continued as they shot just 25% (5/20) from beyond the arc.
When Kent State went to a 2-3 zone late in the game, Ohio couldn’t hit a shot. Missed threes from Cooper, Offutt and Nick Kellogg (10 points) sent Christian scrambling for an answer. His initial move was reaching towards the bench for Travis Wilkins, but the shooting guard never had a chance to put up a shot. The final six points for Ohio came from the free throw line or two feet from the basket.
The Bobcats are now shooting 35% from three on the road this season.
Cooper on his late-game play: “I was just trying to do whatever it took to win. It’s fun playing (at Kent State). I try to raise my level. … I want the ball in my hands. I’m a senior, so it’s my last shot. The guys trust me, and I try to put us in the best position.”
Next up: Ohio will take on Eastern Michigan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Convocation Center. The Bobcats will be looking to be 7-0 in the MAC for the first time since 1961-62.