CLEVELAND, Ohio - The second-seeded Ohio University men’s basketball team (24-8, 14-2) earned a 74-63 victory over No. 3 seed Western Michigan (20-12, 10-6) evening in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament Friday evening in Quicken Loans Arena.
With the win, Ohio moves on to the MAC Tournament Final Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Bobcats will face the Akron Zips (25-6, 14-2 MAC) in the title game for the second-straight season.
The Bobcats raced out of the gate versus the Broncos and led by as many as 19 (34-15) in the first half, before Western Michigan closed within two (48-46) midway through the second stanza. At that point, Ohio hit back-to-back threes to make it 54-46 and the Broncos could not move closer than six (58-52) for the remainder of the contest.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper (Chicago, Ill.) dazzled with 21 points (4-6 3pt FG) and 10 assists to record his sixth double-double of the season. Fellow senior guard Walter Offutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) added his second double-double of 2012-13 with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.
With three steals in the game, Cooper moved past Marques Green (St. Bonaventure) and into 19th on the all-time NCAA Division I steals list. Cooper now has 326 steals in his career. He is 15 assists away from tying Gary Payton (Oregon State) for 11th on the all-time assists ledger.
The Bobcats – aided by a 63.6 percent performance in the first half – shot 48.1 percent (25-52) for the game and connected on a season-high 52.4 percent (11-21) of their 3-point attempts.
Ohio limited the Broncos to 46.7 percent (21-45) for the game and just 37.5 percent (6-16) from beyond the arc.
Ohio, which entered the game 11th in the MAC in rebounding margin, matched the conference’s top rebounding team on the glass, 29-29. The Bobcats also made 10 steals and forced 14 Broncos turnovers. Ohio is now 14-1 when it makes 10 or more steals this season.
The teams played to an 8-8 tie after five minutes of action before the Bobcats used a 7-0 run to build a 15-8 edge at the 11:48 mark of the first half. The Bobcats went up 21-10 on a pretty finish from Keely and took a 29-13 lead after Jon Smith hammered home a perfect feed from Cooper.
After Western Michigan cut the lead to 14 (34-20), the Bobcats scored seven of the final 11 points of the half and led 41-24 at the break.
Cooper played a nearly flawless first half, with nine points (3-3 3pt FG) and eight assists. Keely added eight points, while Offutt had six. The Bobcats shot 63.6 percent (14-22) in the half and made an impressive 7-of-9 3-point attempts (.778).
The Broncos opened the second half on a 10-2 run to cut the Ohio lead to nine (43-34) with 16:44 to go in the game. WMU moved within five (47-42) on a 3-pointer by Brandon Pokley and cut it to two (48-46) with 10:21 to play in the game.
Offutt posted five big points, including a critical 3-pointer, to move Ohio back up eight (56-48) with 8:50 to go, and after the Broncos cut it to six (58-52), a 3-point play from Cooper pushed the lead back to nine (61-52; 4:31).
The Broncos could not move any closer than seven (61-54) for the rest of the game.
Ohio has advanced to the MAC Championship game and will face top-seeded Akron Saturday (March 16) at 6:30 p.m. The MAC title game will be broadcast across the nation on ESPN2. Bob Wischusen will handle play-by-play duties while Stephen Bardo will provide color commentary.
In addition, “Voice of the Bobcats” Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will call the action live on the Ohio IMG Sports Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m.