Updated Wed, Mar 20, 2013 12:02 am
Ohio 57 - Denver 61
No. 6 Ohio
D.J. Cooper: 16 points, 4 assists
Reggie Keely: 12 points, 5-11 field goals
No. 3 Denver
Brett Olsen: 15 points, 5-9 field goals
Cam Griffin: 14 points, 10 reboudns, 5-5 field goals
Ohio 32 - Denver 30
Never Far Behind
Denver controlled the majority of the first half, leading from the 14:22 mark until the final seconds before the intermission. Ohio never fell behind by more than 6 points, though, leaving it in position for a late run orchestrated by D.J. Cooper to take the lead before halftime. In the Bobcats' five non-conference road losses this season, they never had the lead at halftime.
The Pioneers sent back six Ohio shots in the first half. Cam Griffin and Royce O'Neale led with two apiece, but the Bobcats still managed a respectable 44 percent mark from the field.
The referees called a tight game early on, as Denver got charged with nine team fouls and Ohio received 10 through 20 minutes. Forwards Ricardo Johnson and Reggie Keely each took two fouls into the Bobcats' locker room while T.J. Hall collected three. Denver's two high scorers for the half, Jalen Love and Chris Udofia, each had two personal fouls.
Bobcats on the Boards
Ohio controlled the glass in the first half on both sides of the ball. The Bobcats outrebounded Denver 19-11 in the first 20 minutes, which allowed them to hang around as Denver conrtolled the majority of the half. Ivo Baltic grabbed nine rebounds for Ohio to lead all players in the opening frame. Denver came into the game averaging just 25.0 rebounds per game (last in NCAA Division I).
Cooper led the Bobcats on a 7-0 run to end the half and take the lead with an and-one lefty runner from the right side of the basket, three free throws and a layup on Ohio's final possession after a strong defensive stop on the other end. Cooper scored all seven of his first half points in the final two minutes of the half -- a nice change of pace from his previous showing in the MAC Championship loss to Akron, where the senior did not score in the first half.
Ohio 25 - Denver 31
Ohio on the Run
The two teams exchanged buckets for a couple minutes after halftime but util a dunk by Udofia gave Denver a 35-34 lead. Cooper answered with a quick 3 though, which began a small run for Ohio. The Bobcats' lead grew as large as 7 points as Cooper followed a Travis Wilkins jumper with another trey ball. A quick four points by Stevie Taylor gave Ohio a lift and pushed the lead to 46-39 with 12:46 to play.
Pioneers Push Back
Griffin followed Taylor's second bucket with a layup, and one possession later O'Neale nailed a 3 to cut the lead to 2 and force a timeout. A bucket by Keely pushed Ohio's lead back to 4, but Griffin answered with a layup of his own to bring the Pioneers within one possession again. Udofia followed a Cooper missed 3-point attempt with another 2 points in the paint to tie the game, and a Griffin free throw on the following possession gave Denver the lead again at the 9:31 mark. Overall, the Pioneers went on a 10-2 run over just more than three minutes to take controll of the game again.
State of Udofia
Udofia and Griffin punished Ohio inside for 14 points apiece on a combined 11-for-13 from the field. The two forwards were in a state of near perfection on offense, as Denver shot nearly 54 percent from the field and more than 64 percent on 2-point field goals.
Ohio had two chances to tie or take the lead late, after a Reggie Keely layup cut Denver's lead to 58-57 with a minute to go and Ohio forced a turnover on the other end. Cooper found room to drive on the right baseline and attempted a layup with 21 seconds left, but his shot was altered by Denver's length below. Ohio fouled after Denver secured the rebound, and Chase Hallam made one of two attempts, leaving Ohio with the ball and a chance to tie or win with 19 seconds left. Cooper went to Keely in the post this time, but his 8-foot hook drifted off line to the right with seven seconds left. Ohio failed to foul as Denver played keepaway and added a bucket for insurance in the waning seconds.
Out of Character
Ohio struggled to create scoring opportunites with its defense, forcing just 10 turnovers and recording only two steals in the game. The Bobcats turned the ball over 14 times. Denver, which averages the 29th-best 3-point shooting percentage in the nation (.380) made just two of ten opportunites from beyond the arc. The Pioneers also finished with 10 blocks as a team, nearly six more than their average. O'Neale led with four while Udofia finished with three.
End of an Era
With the loss, the careers of Ohio seniors Cooper, Keely, Baltic and Walter Offutt are officially over. Cooper and Keely combined for 28 points in their swan song, while Baltic grabbed 15 rebounds. Offutt, who revealed Monday that he was not particularly thrilled to play in the "second fiddle" NIT, went scoreless with three rebounds and did not attempt a field goal in 36 minutes.