Ohio guard thwarts Buffalo’s senior night
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 23:03
The men’s basketball team has faced the toughest competition the Mid-American Conference has to offer in its past two games.
Three days removed from one of the biggest wins in the program’s history against nationally ranked Akron, the Bulls (12-18, 7-8 MAC) couldn’t carry their momentum over against Ohio (22-8, 13-2 MAC), losing 72-69.
The Bulls let a 69-63 lead with 3:51 remaining slip away when Ohio guard D.J. Cooper (24 points) hit one of his five 3-pointers with just over a minute remaining to reclaim the lead. With 30 seconds remaining, the Bulls had the ball and trailed by just one but they missed their final two field goal attempts.
“This one came down to turnovers versus rebounds,” said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. “We did a great job on the boards and we didn’t do a great job of taking care of the basketball. We turned it over in spurts and it helped them get the outcome they wanted.”
The Bulls went on an 18-3 run with nine minutes left to give them a six-point lead in the last few minutes. They then turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, which sparked the Bobcats’ run to close the game.
“[It was a] humongous swing in the game,” Witherspoon said. “It just comes down to experience.”
Buffalo finished the night with 19 turnovers – compared to Ohio’s meager seven – and the Bobcats were able to convert 27 points off the Bulls’ mistakes.
While the turnover battle favored Ohio, Buffalo dominated the glass throughout the contest, outrebounding the Bobcats 43-22.
“It’s an emphasis in our program to be dominant on the glass,” said sophomore forward Will Regan. “As a team, the mindset was to take care of the ball and get rebounds, so those were things we focused on. Tonight, we were able to do the rebounding part.”
Regan finished with a team-high 20 points (12 of which came in the second half) and hauled in eight rebounds. His counterpart down low, junior forward Javon McCrea, finished with 19 points.
Though the Bulls weren’t able to complete the comeback and come away with a victory, Witherspoon still thinks the team is getting better.
“To be in that situation and to be able to fight all the way back, it just shows that we’re getting better,” Witherspoon said. “These last two teams are the upper part of the conference and we’re not too far away.”
Senior guard Tony Watson and senior guard Richie Sebuharara celebrated senior night before the game began. Watson finished with a rare double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 boards.
In addition to the late-game three Cooper hit that proved to be a dagger to the Bulls, the senior guard made his marks in Ohio’s and the NCAA’s record books. He is now currently the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and became the first player in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 900 assists and 300 steals in a career.
“D.J. hit a tremendous shot with the game on the line,” said Ohio head coach Jim Christian. “That’s the kind of kid he is: he wants the ball in big spots. The minute he walks out the door, you’re not going to see another one like him for a long, long time.”
The Bulls wrap up their regular season on the road, as they take on Bowling Green (12-18, 6-9 MAC) on Friday for a 6 p.m. tip.