ATHENS, Ohio -Ohio made its first seven shots from the field en route to an early 17-3 lead and never looked back as the Bobcats topped Eastern Michigan, 73-50, Wednesday night for their fifth-consecutive win. The Bobcats moved to 20-6 (11-1 MAC) with the win, while Eastern Michigan fell to 12-14 (5-7).
Ohio has now reached the 20-win milestone 14 times in school history and three times in the past four years.
“When you play Eastern Michigan, it’s a pace control game, and we came out with great intensity,” Head Coach Jim Christian said. “I was glad to see our team sustain that energy.”
Senior forward Reggie Keely (University Heights, Ohio) led the Bobcats with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while senior guard D.J. Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) turned in his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and a game-high 10 assists. Senior forward Ivo Baltic (Kansas City, Mo.) finished with a solid performance of eight points and nine rebounds.
With his 10 assists, Cooper moved into a tie for 13th place on the all-time NCAA Division I assists list (894 for his career). Cooper passed Chico Fletcher (Arkansas State) during the game and is now tied with Andre LaFleur (Northeastern) for 13th place.
The talented senior also grabbed a season-high five steals, moving him into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time NCAA Division I steals list. Cooper has recorded 316 career steals.
“I think we enjoyed tonight,” Cooper said. “For us seniors, it’s starting to hit us that it’s our last couple of games.”
Cooper, Baltic and Keely have now appeared in a school-record 135 games in their Ohio careers. The previous high mark of 134 was set by Kenneth van Kempen (2007-10).
The Bobcats played stellar defense throughout the game, holding the Eagles to 16-of-57 shooting (28.6 percent) from the floor. J.R. Sims was the only Eagles player to finish in double figures, scoring 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Ohio posted a season-high 42 rebounds on the night and held a +7 edge (42-35) on the glass.
Ohio made its first seven field goals to open the game on a 17-3 run while limiting EMU to 1-of-6 shooting and forcing six Eagles' turnovers. The Bobcats' hot shooting cooled off after making seven straight, but EMU never got closer than 21-8. Ohio shot 57.7 percent for the half while forcing nine Eagles' turnovers and limiting EMU to 29.2 percent shooting.
The Bobcats assisted on 13-of-15 baskets in the first half and scored 20 points in the paint. Keely led the Cats with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Eastern Michigan started the second half on a brief 6-2 run and forced Ohio coach Jim Christian to call a quick timeout with the lead cut to 38-22. The Cats responded with a run of their own to increase the lead back to 43-24 with just under 14 minutes remaining. A Jon Smith dunk coupled with a deep trifecta from Cooper pushed the lead back to 25 (51-26) with 12:20 left.
Ohio controlled the rest of the contest as EMU never cut the lead to fewer than 18. Cooper led the second-half scoring charge, finishing with 11 points after halftime.
With the win, the Bobcats earned a season sweep of the MAC West (6-0) for the first time since divisional play began in 1997-98. Ohio also moved to 37-2 (.949) in their last 39 games at the Convocation Center. Ohio has won 19-straight conference games at home.
The Bobcats now travel to Nashville, Tenn. to take on Belmont Saturday at 10 p.m. (EST). The game will be televised on ESPN2 as part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters event.