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Ohio Men's Basketball Starts Season with UT-Martin

T.J. Hall and the Bobcats host UT-Martin tomorrow afternoon in the season opener.

Nov. 12, 2011

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Ohio Men's Basketball opens the 2011-12 regular season tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. when it welcomes UT-Martin to The Convo.

Head Coach John Groce begins his fourth year leading the Bobcat program and has only one senior on the roster, Cincinnati transfer Kenny Belton.

"It's really the same team for a two-year window, which we're looking forward to," Groce said. "I feel like, for the first time since I've been here, we have some experience. We've got a unique team."

Here's what Groce means by unique: Ohio welcomes back six of its top eight scorers from a 19-win team -- led by first-team All-MAC point guard D.J. Cooper (15.8 ppg, 7.5 apg)

"We've got a lot of versatility," Groce said. "It's the most depth that we've had. We should be better defensively because we can hold people accountable. Last year, we weren't as good defensively as we needed to be [opponents shot 45 percent and averaged 72.4 points]. Our offensive numbers I'd put against anybody in the league the first three years."

And Cooper can put up his numbers for the first two years against most point guards across the country. Not only does the 5-10, 183-pound junior flash from Chicago enter this season averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 assists for his career -- he ranked third nationally in assists last year with 7.5 per game -- he's providing 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals each time out.

Junior forward Ivo Baltic (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and 6-3 sophomore shooting guard Nick Kellogg (7.8 ppg) are returning starters as well. The 6-8, 214-pound Baltic was one of the MAC's most-improved players last year. Kellogg, the son of CBS Sports' college basketball color analyst Clark Kellogg, was a revelation during his freshman year as he shot 43.5 percent from three-point range and finished second on the squad with 64 threes.

Last year, The Bobcats advanced to their third postseason appearance in four years and became only the third team in the nation to play in all four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI, and CIT). The 65-64 victory over Marshall in the first round of the CIT was the 11th win in postseason history for the Bobcats, most of any team from the Mid-American Conference.

This also marked the first time in Ohio history that the Bobcats had earned wins in consecutive postseasons, and has now earned a win in three of the last four postseasons. Ohio’s 41 wins over the past two seasons are its most since the 94-95 campaigns, and the Bobcats are one of three MAC teams to have one or fewer losing seasons since 2004. The Green & White also achieved their first winning record in true road games since 2002.

In Ohio's lone exhibition game against Mercyhurst College, Baltic tallied a double-double on the night, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds. New addition Walter Offutt finished with 23 points and four steals. He and Kellogg combined to shoot 13-of-18 from the field, going 7-for-10 on three-pointers, for 40 of Ohio's 82 points. In his first action on the collegiate level, Stevie Taylor earned the start and added nine points along with a team-high four assists for the Green & White.