ATHENS, Ohio - Senior point guard D.J. Cooper scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Ohio University men's basketball team (10-5, 1-0 MAC) to a dominating 86-68 victory over Buffalo Wednesday night to open Mid-American Conference play.
Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) connected on 7-of-9 shots from the field and also dished out a game-high seven assists. Fellow senior Reggie Keely (University Heights, Ohio) finished in double figures as he tallied a career-high 19 points, connecting on 6-of-10 shots from the field.
As a team, Ohio shot 50.8 percent, but was out-rebounded, 39-35. The Bobcats limited the Bulls to just 38.2 percent (21-55) from the floor and have now held their opponent under 40 percent shooting for two straight games.
Ohio posted 26 assists on the night and is now averaging 19.6 assists on the year. The `Cats came into the game ranked second in the country in assists per contest.
The teams traded baskets for the first four minutes of play before the `Cats moved in front by three (11-8) on a thunderous jam by senior forward Ivo Baltic (Kansas City, Mo.). After Buffalo moved within two at 14-12, Ohio turned three-consecutive turnovers by the Bulls into a 6-0 run and a 20-12 lead with 12:14 to go in the first half. Buffalo came storming back with seven-straight to move within one (20-19), but two assists and a 3-pointer from Cooper fueled a 16-3 run by the `Cats to build the lead back up to 14 (36-22) with 5:34 remaining in the half.
Ohio moved ahead by 18 on a strong drive and finish by senior guard Walter Offutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) and built a 20-point advantage on a triple by Cooper with less than two minutes to go in the stanza. Ohio entered the break ahead, 53-31.
The `Cats built their large first-half lead in large part due to a 25-9 run midway through the period in which the team shot 82 percent and missed just two shots. In all, Ohio shot an impressive 65.4 percent from the field and dished out 16 assists on 20 made field goals. Cooper led the `Cats with 18 points and five assists, while Keely added 13 points and three rebounds.
Keely notched Ohio's first six points of the second half as the `Cats extended their lead to 24 (59-35) in the first four minutes of action. A 3-pointer by junior forward T.J. Hall (Gainesville, Fla.) put Ohio in front by 31 (67-36), and Ohio extended its advantage to 32 (77-45) on a floater by sophomore Kadeem Green (Toronto, Canada) with 7:42 to go in the game. The Bulls would get no closer than 18 points for the remainder of the contest.
Ohio excelled in transition throughout the game and held a 23-2 edge in fastbreak points. The `Cats are a perfect 10-0 this season when they post more transition points than their opponent.
Ohio will hit the road for the first time in MAC play to face Western Michigan on Saturday (Jan. 12) at 2 p.m. The matchup can be heard for free on OhioBobcats.com. "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will call the action live on the Ohio IMG Sports Network powered by Horizon.