ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University men's basketball team (23-8, 14-2 MAC) earned a share of the 2013 MAC regular season title after defeating rival Miami (8-21, 3-13), 58-54, on Saturday afternoon inside the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats share the crown with Akron and have captured the regular season title for the first time since 1993-94.
Ohio trailed by as many as 12 in the second half, but used a 15-0 run midway through the half to take control of the game.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) led Ohio with 17 points and five rebounds, while junior forward Jon Smith (Columbus, Ohio) added nine points, a season-high 10 rebounds and two blocks. Sophomore guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna, Ohio) chipped in eight points and three steals in 16 minutes of action.
With his two steals versus the RedHawks, Cooper is now tied for 20th on the all-time NCAA Division I steals list with Devin Gibson (UTSA). Cooper now has 323 career steals.
With the victory, Ohio tied a program-record with 14 MAC wins and has now earned 14 league wins for the first time when the MAC schedule has included 16 games. The team's previous best record during a 16-game slate was 11-5.
After head coach Jim Christian began the Senior Day game with a starting lineup of five seniors, the Bobcats raced out to a 7-2 lead. After Miami pulled within one (9-8), Taylor knocked down a 3-pointer and junior guard Travis Wilkins (Springfield, Mo.) hit a pair of free throws to put the Bobcats back up six (15-9) with 9:39 to play in the first half.
Miami posted six-straight points to tie the game at 15 and the RedHawks took a 22-20 lead off a bucket by Will Felder with 5:15 to go in the half. Miami closed the half on a 9-2 run and took a 28-22 lead into the break.
The Bobcats connected on a season-low 18.8 percent of their field goal attempts in the half and committed seven turnovers in the stanza. Cooper led Ohio with 10 points and four rebounds in the half.
Miami extended its lead to 12 (41-29) six minutes into the second half and led 44-32 with 11:58 to go in the game. At that point, Ohio began the game's most critical run.
A 3-pointer by Taylor and back-to-back lay-ins by Smith cut the Miami lead to five (44-39) and a lay-up by senior guard Walter Offutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) moved the `Cats within three (44-41).
After Ohio tied the game on a lay-in by Taylor, Cooper nailed a 3-pointer in transition to push the Bobcats back in front by three (47-44) with 7:04 to go. The triple capped a 15-0 run by the `Cats.
Miami moved back within one (49-48) on a jumper by Jon Harris, but a clutch 3-pointer from senior forward Ivo Baltic (Kansas City, Mo.) extended the Ohio edge to four (52-48) with 4:33 to play.
Another lay-in by Harris cut the Ohio lead to two (52-50), but the RedHawks could not move any closer for the remainder of the contest.
Prior to the game, the Ohio senior class of Baltic, Cooper, guard Nick Goff (Columbus, Ohio), forward Reggie Keely (University Heights, Ohio), guard David McKinley (Dublin, Ohio) and Offutt was honored in a special ceremony. The class has posted a school-record 93 wins and has captured two MAC Tournament titles and now the 2013 MAC regular season title.
Saturday's win was Ohio's 100th all-time victory over the RedHawks.
Ohio now heads to Cleveland, Ohio, to take part in the annual MAC Championship. As the No. 2 seed, the Bobcats will play the quarterfinal winner of No. 3 Western Michigan and the winner of the first round game between No. 6 Bowling Green and No. 11 Miami.
The semifinal game is set for Friday (March 15) at 9:00 p.m. inside Quicken Loans Arena. The contest will be broadcast locally on SportsTime Ohio and across the nation on ESPN3. In addition, "Voice of the Bobcats" Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will call the action live on the Ohio IMG Sports Network.