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Ohio Crushes Central Michigan on Way to Cleveland

OHIOBOBCATS.COM Senior guard Jeff Halbert scored the first nine points for Ohio and finished with 16.
OHIOBOBCATS.COM
Senior guard Jeff Halbert scored the first nine points for Ohio and finished with 16.
OHIOBOBCATS.COM
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March 6, 2006

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ATHENS, Ohio - Mychal Green and Jeff Halbert made sure their last game in the Convocation Center would be a memorable one as both Ohio seniors came out firing Monday night against Central Michigan in an 82-53 Mid-American Conference Tournament opening-round win.

With the victory, the Bobcats (18-10) advance to the quarterfinals Thursday night against Miami. That rematch of last year's MAC Tournament semifinals will tip at 9 p.m. in Cleveland's Quicken Loans (formerly Gund) Arena.

Halbert (White Bear Lake, Minn.) scored the Bobcats' first nine points, all on three-pointers, as Ohio raced out to a 9-5 lead. Green (Columbus, Ohio) made it 12-5 with his first trey less than three minutes into the contest.

On Ohio's next possession, Halbert passed up a three-pointer opportunity to feed Leon Williams (Baltimore, Md.), who was cutting through the paint for an uncontested one-handed dunk. The Convo crowd was going wild and the rout was on.

Following a Whitney Davis (Ann Arbor, Mich.) trey three minutes later, Green stole the ball from Chippewa guard Giordan Watson and tossed it ahead for Johnnie Jackson, whose spectacular reverse flush had Bobcat fans hopping. Jackson then blocked an Aaron Richie shot at the other end of the floor, grabbed the rebound and found Green for yet another three-pointer, this one giving Ohio a commanding 28-7 advantage with 12:54 remaining in the first half.

Central Michigan's defense prevented the game from becoming a laugher as three steals resulted in a 10-0 CMU run. Halbert stopped the run with a jumper but Watson answered for the Chippewas with a three-pointer. Halbert quickly returned the favor with a trey of his own but again Watson answered with a three to cut the gap to 10 points.

After layups by Williams and Davis pushed the lead back to 14, CMU forward Chris Kellerman hit from behind the arc and then Watson nailed a jumper to make it 37-28 with 5:39 left to play before halftime.

That is as close as the Chippewas (4-24) would get as Green sandwiched a pair of layups with three-pointers, creating his own 10-0 run in just over a minute of play. Central Michigan would manage four straight points but Green ended the first half with his fifth three-pointer, giving him 19 points at the break in addition to Halbert's 14.

Both Ohio captains had a pair of steals and were the main reason why the Bobcats shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) from the field and a blistering 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from three-point range in the first half.

Trailing 50-32 at intermission, the Chippewas were shooting 48.1 percent (13-of-27) from the field and 30.8 percent (4-of-13) from long distance. They were led by Watson's 14 points.

To start the second half, the Bobcats scored the first five points and 10 of the first 13 fueled by a pair of three-pointers by Green, giving him a career-best seven for the game. With the lead up to 25 points, CMU reeled off four straight points to make it 60-39 with 13:56 to play but Ohio went on a 13-4 run to push the gap up to 30 points with 8:25 remaining.

The Bobcats cruised from there, slowing down their offense and sending their stars to the bench with standing ovations. Green tied his career high with 25 points while Halbert achieved season-highs with 16 points and a game-best seven rebounds. The duo combined for 41 points, 11 three-pointers, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block.

"Mychal and Jeff couldn't have picked a better time to really start shooting the ball well," said Ohio head coach Tim O'Shea, whose first season in Athens ended with a first-round home loss to CMU. "The way they started the game, that was great senior leadership. I was really pleased with the effort and hopefully and we can take that shooting on the road now because we're 16-0 when we score more than 65 points."

Williams contributed 11 points and four rebounds to the win while Davis recorded 10 points and freshman Jerome Tillman (Dayton, Ohio) added eight points and five boards. Also scoring for the Bobcats were Sonny Troutman (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Ken Ottrix (Seattle, Wash.) with four apiece and Antonio Chatman (Dorchester, Mass.) and Jackson with two each.

For the game, Ohio shot 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the field, 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from three-point land and 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from the free-throw line. The Chippewas were 21-of-48 (43.8 percent) from the field, 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) from behind the arc and 6-of-8 (75.0 percent) from the line.

Watson led CMU with 20 points while Kellerman chipped in 11. The 29-point margin of victory was Ohio's largest in a MAC Tournament game since defeating Western Michigan by 31 in the 1994 quarterfinals.

"For us, it was almost an advantage to play tonight because it gives us back-to-back wins going into Thursday night's game," said O'Shea about the Bobcats' second-straight lopsided victory. "I like where we're at. I think we've restored a lot of our confidence."

To order MAC Tournament tickets for the sessions Ohio will be playing in, contact the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 740-593-1300 or toll-free at 1-800-575-CATS (2287). Single-game tickets through the Bobcat ticket office are available for the discounted price of $28 each.