ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University men's basketball team withstood a number of rallies from a talented Toledo squad to earn its fifth-straight win, 76-67, on Saturday evening inside the Convocation Center.
Ohio (13-5, 4-0 MAC), which trailed 36-33 at halftime, used second-half runs of 7-0, 9-0 and 5-0 to hold on to the lead it claimed for much of the final stanza.
Senior forward Reggie Keely (University Heights, Ohio), who came into the game ranked second in the MAC in field goal percentage (.657), paced the `Cats with a career-best 24 points while connecting on a career-high nine field goals on nine attempts. Fellow senior Ivo Baltic (Kansas City, Mo.) added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting and five rebounds, while redshirt senior Walter Offutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) registered 14 points in 36 minutes on the floor.
For the second-straight game, junior guard Ricardo Johnson (Covington, Ky.) provided a spark off the bench, with a career-best 13 points, six rebounds and a number of hustle plays on both ends of the floor.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) distributed a team-high nine assists to go along with seven points. With his second assists of the game, Cooper passed Chris Thomas (Notre Dame) and Pooh Richardson (UCLA) for sole possession of 21st place on the all-time NCAA Division I assists list.
Ohio shot over 50 percent (.509; 27-53) for the fifth-straight home game and overcame a 4-of-17 (.235) performance from 3-point territory. The Green and White forced Toledo to commit 11 second-half turnovers and held a 16-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
Toledo (6-9, 2-2 MAC) scored six of the game's first 10 points, before two-straight 3-pointers from Offutt gave Ohio a 10-6 lead at the 17:20 mark of the first half. The Rockets battled back to tie the game at 10, but Ohio notched seven of the next nine points to build a 17-12 advantage. Toledo's Nathan Boothe completed a 3-point play to get the Rockets back within two (22-20) and a baseline drive by Reese Holiday pulled Toledo even with the `Cats (24-24) with 7:25 to play in the stanza.
With the score tied at 30, Toledo took its first lead since the 18:17 mark on a 3-pointer by Matt Smith and built its advantage to six (36-30), before a lay-in by Keely pulled the `Cats back within three points. The Rockets held a 36-33 advantage at halftime.
Ohio raced out of the gate to score the first eight points of the second half and led 41-36 at the 17:42 mark. Toledo moved back within one at 49-48, but Ohio responded with a 9-0 run - punctuated by a monster Baltic jam - that put the `Cats up 55-48 with 11:43 to play.
Toledo cut it to three (62-59) on a lay-in by Rian Pearson, but Ohio bounced back yet again, this time with five-straight points, to push the lead back to eight (67-59) with 5:13 remaining. Including in that pivotal five-point burst was a deep 3-pointer by sophomore guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna, Ohio). Taylor took a charge on the next Toledo possession to complete the critical swing for Ohio.
"Three plays in a row he [Taylor] deflects the ball out of bounds, hits the three late in the shot clock and takes a charge," head coach Jim Christian said. "That sequence changed the game. He's played really well the past four games and has approached his game with a lot of confidence."
Keely hit his ninth field goal in nine tries to give the `Cats a nine-point advantage (70-61) with 2:34 to go, and after a 3-pointer by Toledo's Dominique Buckley cut it to six (70-64), the Rockets could not move any closer for the remainder of the contest.
Ohio held Pearson - the MAC's leading scorer - to 14 points and forced the talented junior to commit seven turnovers (0 assists).
The Green and White improved to 34-2 in their last 36 games inside the Convocation Center.
The `Cats now take their unbeaten conference record on the road for a 7 p.m. contest with archrival Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday (Jan. 23) in Oxford. The game will be televised locally on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. In addition, "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will call the action live on the Ohio IMG Sports Network powered by Horizon.