OXFORD, Ohio -D.J. Cooper broke Ohio's all-time assists mark and Jon Smith had a career-best showing as the Bobcats improved to 24-7 and locked up at least a bye in the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 63-54 win at Miami this afternoon.
Cooper scored an efficient 14 points, had five steals, four rebounds and four assists. His record-breaking dime came on a fast break give to T.J. Hall with 5:07 in the first half.
Cooper broke Dennis Whitaker's mark of 651 assists that had stood since 1990. Cooper already owns Ohio's top two single-season marks (263 in 10-11, 218 in 2009-10). His 249 steals currently rank him second all-time to Sonny Troutman's Ohio record, 259. Cooper also owns the single-season mark in that category (93 in 2009-10).
Jon Smith finished with a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. The redshirt sophomore also led the Bobcats with seven rebounds. Nick Kellogg reached double figures for the fourth game in a row as he contributed 10 points and three steals.
Trailing 4-3, Ohio went on a 7-0 run capped by a Ricardo Johnson jumper to take a lead it would not relinquish.
Up 14-8, the `Cats went on a 6-0 run to take the lead to double digits for the first time. Ivo Baltic knocked down two jumpers and would eventually finish with all eight of his points in the first stanza.
Ohio led by 11 before Miami cut the deficit to four over the final 5:09 of the first half. The Bobcats shot 52 percent from the floor and went into the lockers ahead 28-24. Baltic led all scorers and each team turned the ball over 11 times.
Leading by six with 11:32 showing on the clock, Ohio doubled its lead over the next four and a half minutes. A traditional three-point play by Smith gave the `Cats a 50-38 lead with just under seven minutes to play.
Miami would not go away as it went on a 10-2 run to close the gap to four after a layup by Quinten Rollins with 2:22 showing. Free throws by Cooper, Johnson and Walter Offutt would follow as Ohio stretched the lead back to nine with seconds remaining.
Ohio's 11 MAC wins are its most in conference play since the league went to a 16-game schedule. It is the highest winning percentage for the Bobcats since the 1994-95 season.
Ohio will now play in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. or in the semifinals on Friday, also at 9:30 p.m., but as the No. 2 seed. The outcome of tonight's Bowling Green-Buffalo game will decide the time and date of Ohio's contest.