ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University men's basketball team (2-1) fought off a late deficit Sunday afternoon before finishing the game with a 6-0 run to pull out a 76-72 win over Valparaiso (2-2) inside the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats started hot, hitting 8-of-9 shots in the opening minutes and racing out to a 20-8 lead. The hard fighting Crusaders trailed until the 2:18 mark in the second half when the away team took a 72-70 lead, but they wouldn't score again in the game's final minutes.
Ohio was led by junior forward Maurice Ndour (Mbour, Senegal), who finished with career bests in points (23), blocks (5) and steals (4) while adding six rebounds. Ndour knocked down 9-of-13 field goal attempts in 29 minutes on the floor.
Senior Nick Kellogg has scored in double figures in all three games for the Bobcats in 2013-14 and added 16 points (4-of-9 3pt FG) and four rebounds Sunday against the Crusaders.
Senior guard/forwards T.J. Hall (Gainesville, Fla.) and Ricardo Johnson (Covington, Ky.) put in 11 points each while senior forward Jon Smith (Grove City, Ohio) posted seven points, seven rebounds and added four blocks. Smith eclipsed the 100-block plateau for his career is eighth all-time at Ohio (101) in the category.
Junior guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna, Ohio) led the Green & White with a team-high four assists and added two steals in 29 minutes.
Ohio forced 19 turnovers aided by 12 steals and scored 25 points off of those turnovers in the contest. The Green and White shot 43.9 percent from the floor (25-57) and held the visitors to 37 percent shooting (20-54).
The Bobcats held the Crusaders to 28.6 percent from 3-point territory (6-21), marking the third time in three games Ohio has held its opponent under 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Defensively, Ohio tallied 10 blocks for the first time since a December 2011 game against Marietta. The Bobcats have registered 10-or-more blocks just seven times since blocks were kept as a stat at Ohio beginning in 1996.
After the Bobcats jumped out to the 20-8 lead, the Bobcats stayed in front by that margin (27-15) on a jumper by Jon Smith with 8:59 to go in the opening half. After Valpo used an 8-1 run to move within five (28-23), Ohio countered with a 12-3 run to build its largest lead of the half (40-26) with 45 seconds to go. The Bobcats led, 40-28, at halftime.
Valparaiso opened the second half with a 10-0 run and trailed by just four with 16:51 to play in the game. Eight straight points from Kellogg helped Ohio go back up by nine (48-39), and a lay-up by Taylor gave the Green & White their largest lead of the game (62-46) with 9:49 to go.
From there, the Crusaders fought back with 12-1 run to grab its first lead of the contest (70-69) with 2:49 to go. Valpo extended its edge to two (72-70), but Ohio shut the visitors out over the final 2:18 of action and hit its free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win.
The 'Cats are now 40-3 inside the Convo over their last 43 home games.
The Bobcats return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Baltimore, Md., to take on Morgan State (0-4). Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.