ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University men's basketball team (19-6, 10-1) surged past Kent State (14-12, 5-7) in an overtime thriller, 78-75, in the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon on ESPNU.
The victory earned Ohio a regular season sweep of Kent State for the first since 2000-01.
“We’ve played Kent State twice and both games have been like this," Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. "We were fortunate enough to get the ball last and make a big time shot. It was a great pass by Walt and a great shot by Stevie.”
Sophomore Stevie Taylor’s first field goal was the biggest of the game for the Bobcats. With Ohio down by two with only 13 seconds left on the clock in overtime, the Gahanna, Ohio, product hit a corner three-pointer to give Ohio the lead.
“I just let the play develop," Taylor said. "Coach Christian always says to take what the defense gives you. My role on this team is to step up. I have to back up [D.J. Cooper], and I take pride in that. ”
Junior Nick Kellogg (Westerville, Ohio) stole the ball on the ensuing Kent State possession, then received a pass from senior Walter Offutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) on the break to score the game clinching lay-in.
With the win, Ohio improved to 10-1 in MAC play and is one win away from tying the program’s best MAC start since 1984-85.
Ohio had four players score in double figures, led by Offutt who had 17 points and made 9-of-11 attempts from the free throw line. Senior D.J. Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) battled through illness to post 13 points. Cooper also dished out a game-high seven assists and is now tied for 15th place on the all-time NCAA assists list.
During the contest, Cooper passed Taurence Chisholm (Delaware), Scott Machado (Iona) and Frank Smith (Old Dominion) on the all-time assists ledger. He is currently tied with Jim Les (Bradley) for 15th all-time with 884 career assists.
Kent State knocked down 49.1 percent of its field goal attempts for the game, including an impressive 16-for-22 mark (.727) in the second half. Senior Chris Evans notched a double-double for the Golden Flashes with a game-high 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Ohio made up for Kent’s hot shooting by forcing 22 turnovers while making 11 steals. The Bobcats held a 26-14 lead in points off turnovers for the game and outscored Kent State in the paint, 30-24.
The Bobcats came out of the gate hot, leaping out to a 5-0 lead after a dunk by Keely and a 3-pointer from junior guard T.J. Hall (Gainesville, Fla.). The dunk from Keely gave the senior 1,000 points for his career.
Keely (1,008), Cooper (1,936) and senior forward Ivo Baltic (1,032) now make up the only class in the history of Ohio men’s basketball to include three,1,000 point scorers.
The trio also moved into a tie with Kenneth van Kempen (2007-10) for the most games played (134) in Ohio University history.
Kent State hanged tough in the first half, and was able to take a 23-16 lead off a couple of free throws from Melvin Tabb with 5:54 to go in the half. The Bobcats ended the stanza on a 15-3 run and took a 31-26 lead into halftime. A D.J. Cooper buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped off the run for Ohio.
Ohio started the second half right where it left off, scoring the first five points of the second half off a couple of nice assists from Cooper. By the time the two-half run had ended, Ohio had outscored Kent State 28-8 and held a 46-31 lead with 15:51 remaining in the game.
With Ohio leading 61-50 with eight minutes remaining, Kent State battled back with a 12-0 run to take a 62-61 lead.
After a back and forth seven minutes of action, a couple of late free throws by Kent State’s Kris Brewer tied the game at 69 and Cooper’s half-court heave at the buzzer was just off as regulation ended, sending the game to overtime.
The overtime period was as back-and-forth as the end of regulation. Kent State took a 75-73 lead on two free throws by Kris Brewer with 31 seconds to go, but Taylor hit the big 3-pointer on the next Ohio possession to help clinch the victory for the Bobcats
Ohio returns to action against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday (Feb. 20) at 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.