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Bobcat Men Take 77-61 Decision in Opener

Nov. 26, 2005

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ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio men's basketball squad used pressure defense to build an advantage on the scoreboard in the first half and finished with four players in double figure scoring to back up that defense as the Bobcats won their season opener 77-61 over St. Francis Saturday afternoon in the Convocation Center.

Only two teams in NCAA Division I basketball had a longer wait longer than the Bobcats (1-0) to get their 2005-06 campaign underway, but the home team showed few signs of rustiness. The Bobcats forced 15 St. Francis (2-3) turnovers through the contest's first 20 minutes and converted those takeaways into 17 points as they held a 38-24 lead at the intermission.

From there Ohio pushed its lead to as many as 23 points in the second half thanks to a balanced scoring attack and came away with a 16-point victory.

Sophomore point guard Jeremy Fears (Joliet, Ill.), who finished with a team-high 16 points on the game, netted eight of the Bobcats' first 16 points as the hosts jumped out to a 10-point lead just under seven minutes into the contest.

By the midway point of the half the Bobcat defense has already had six steals and the first bucket of junior transfer Ken Ottrix's (Seattle, Wash.) career with exactly 10 minutes remaining in the half gave Ohio a 23-8 advantage.

The Red Flash, behind sixth-man Rahsaan Benton's three-straight three-pointers, clawed back to within six at 28-22 with 5:08 remaining, but the Bobcats answered with a 10-2 run to close out the half ahead 38-24.

The Bobcats averted any second half complacency as they stormed out of the gate with eight of the frame's first 10 points to extend to a 44-26 lead. That lead ballooned to 23 points as a Leon Williams (Baltimore, Md.) layup with 8:12 remaining stretched the Ohio advantage to its largest point of the day at 60-37.

Johnnie Jackson (Memphis, Tenn.) dropped in 13 points and recorded three steals in his Bobcat debut after sitting out last season as a transfer from Boston College. Preseason All-Mid-American Conference picks Mychal Green (Columbus, Ohio) and Williams added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for Ohio.

The Bobcat defense finished with 15 steals and forced a total of 23 St. Francis turnovers. Ohio held its own on the other end of the court as well as it shot 52% from the field for the game.

Ohio Head Coach Tim O'Shea played 11 of the team's 13 members that were dressed and eight saw at least 19 minutes of court action.

St. Francis' Benton led all scorers in the game with 21 points thanks to 6-of-11 shooting from behind the three-point arc. J.R. Enright joined Benton in double figures for the Red Flash with 12. Winston Robinson pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.

Thanks to Benton, the Red Flash outscored Ohio's deep bench 33-25, but transition buckets and the presence of Williams inside saw the Bobcats finish with 34-18 advantage in scoring in the paint.

Only MAC East Division rival Akron, who tips at 7 p.m. tonight, and Baylor will start their seasons later than Ohio among the 327 Division I programs. Baylor will open on Jan. 11 after having their non-conference schedule wiped out due to NCAA violations.

The Bobcats will step back into action next Saturday, Dec. 3, when they host American at the Convocation Center at 4 p.m. The contest will follow the Ohio women's match-up with Western Illinois, which begins at 1 p.m.