ATHENS, Ohio- Junior forward Maurice Ndour scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Ohio University men's basketball team to a 75-64 win over Northern Iowa in front of 11,162 fans inside the Convocation Center.
Ndour (Mbour, Senegal) went 8-of-12 from the field in his Ohio debut and connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the contest. He also tallied a pair of blocks and had five rebounds.
"It feels great. I wasn't nervous at all," Ndour said. "I was really excited for my first college basketball game and as I said, I would've done anything for today."
Ohio put together a strong offensive effort in game and shot 47.8 percent (11-23) from beyond the arc. The `Cats shot 51.9 percent overall and dished out 16 assists on 27 field goals.
The Bobcat defense was solid throughout the contest and held UNI to 38.8 percent shooting from the floor, including a paltry 27.3 percent (6-22) from 3-point territory. The `Cats forced 12 UNI turnovers while committing just six and held an 18-6 edge in points off turnovers.
After posting two points in the opening half, senior Nick Kellogg (Westerville, Ohio) scored 14 of the team's last 16 points over the final seven minutes of action and tied Ndour for a team-high five rebounds in the contest.
Junior point guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna, Ohio) tallied a career-high eight assists to go along with 10 points and two steals, while senior guard/forward Ricardo Johnson (Covington, Ky.) also hit a career high with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
After trading baskets in the early moments of the first half, the Bobcats strung together a 12-0 run to take a 15-4 lead at the 14:38 mark of the first half. The run was sparked by the defense forcing three turnovers and was capped off with back-to-back 3-pointers from Ricardo Johnson (Covington, Ky.) and Javarez Willis (Homer, La.).
Northern Iowa cut Ohio's lead to one at 28-27 with 4:03 remaining in the first half, but a strong 11-5 finish - keyed by eight points from Stevie Taylor (Gahanna, Ohio) -helped the Bobcats enter the break up 39-32.
A 3-pointer from Ndour extended Ohio's lead to 10 (43-33), but the Panthers quickly closed within four (43-39) on a pair of free throws. UNI got within three (55-52) after a Deon Mitchell lay-up, but two-straight buckets from Johnson put Ohio back up six (59-53) with eight minutes to play in the game.
The Panthers closed to within four at 67-63 with 3:26 remaining, but could not move any closer, as an impressive up-and-under layup from and free throws from Kellogg helped Ohio go back up by seven (71-64) and put the game out of reach for UNI.
With the victory, Ohio has now won its last 10 openers and is 72-35 all-time in season debuts. The `Cats improved to 2-0 all-time against UNI and 25-19 against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference.
Ohio will be in action again Tuesday night when the Bobcats travel to Columbus, Ohio to play No. 11/10 Ohio State at 8 p.m. The Bobcats and Buckeyes have not met on the hardwood since the 1994-95 season.