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‘In Coop they trust’: Bobcats’ defense too heavy for UB

blog by Spencer Trotman  • 

The University at Buffalo’s final home Mid-American Conference tilt boasted a little of everything—extended scoring runs, record-setting performances and the re-emergence of a former star. The Buffalo Bulls fell short against the Ohio Bobcats, who had already clinched the coveted triple-bye into the conference semifinals.

Reggie Witherspoon’s Bulls had control most of the game, but Ohio’s record-setting guard D.J. Cooper hit a game-winning three-pointer with 1:34 left to propel the Bobcats to a 72-69 triumph. For the Bobcats’ senior, the team win overshadowed a tremendous personal accomplishment. Here’s OhioBobcats.com’s report:

With his third basket of the game, Cooper reached the 2,000 point milestone for his career and become the first player in NCAA Division I history to post 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in a career. He is one of five players in Bobcat history to record 2,000 career points.

Key play: Late in the second half, UB gained back momentum after losing some control—then it changed with a sloppy turnover. Ohio’s full-court press troubled the Bulls for most of the game, but with 3:13 left in the second-half, Ohio did not play press defense and went back to a half-court set. While there was no pressure, Will Regan fumbled while passing the ball in the backcourt and turned it over out of bounds when UB was up 69-65. Since that point, Ohio gained control and the Bulls didn’t score for the rest of the game.

Full-court trap: Early in the first half, the Bulls were able to score any way they wanted. As soon as Ohio switched its defense to a full-court trap, the Bulls struggled. Freshman guard Jarryn Skeete and sophomore big-man Will Regan did most of the ball-handling during the press. Senior guard Tony Watson IIwas nowhere to be found in the backcourt. Ohio forced UB into 19 turnovers and thieved 11 steals—the Bobcats scored 27 points off turnovers.

Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon said, “We turned it over in spurts and we let them stay in the game enough for them to get the outcome they wanted.”

Rebounds: UB crushed Ohio on the boards, out-rebounding the Bobcats 43-22. Watson led the team, grabbing 11 off the glass with Regan helping with eight. The Bulls’ big guys Javon McCrea and Regan dominated. The Ohio bigs resorted to double teaming and grabbing jerseys down the stretch to contain UB on the block. In the final 30 seconds, however, Ohio concentrated its focus on Buffalo’s best post player.

McCrea said, “They denied me the ball, they didn’t want to give it to me. I probably would have scored it.” McCrea totaled 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. Regan scored 20 on the night.

Athleticism: Sometimes, intangibles trump numbers. Ohio didn’t tire from pressing which resulted in 11 fast-break points and several momentum swings. UB went scoreless in transition—the Bulls were unable to out-run or out-jump the Bobcats. Three violent dunks from Ohio’s Jon Smith dampened the enthusiasm of the Alumni Arena faithful during Ohio’s comeback.

Player of the game: Even though he slowed down in the second-half, the Bobcats D.J. Cooper was the X-factor throughout the game. After the Bulls got off to their hot start, Cooper decided enough was enough.

He tallied 16 points while Ohio took the lead going into halftime at 42-37. Cooper was able to capitalize on UB mistakes—Ohio was down two with 1:34 to go, and two UB players switched off a ball-screen, leaving Cooper wide open—he knocked the three to clinch the win.

“When you’re playing in Buffalo, it’s a hostile crowd and I embrace that kind of stuff, it keeps me going,” Cooper said to the media following the game. “I don’t think it’s smart for the opposing team to add fuel to the fire [by taunting] the best player,” Cooper says. The senior star also noted that his teammates call him “in Coop we trust.”

MAC standings: Buffalo is now the sixth seed heading into the MAC tournament (7-8) in conference play and (12-18) overall. Ohio is sitting comfortably at second seed, 13-2 in conference, and 22-8 overall. Both Bobcat conference losses came from the first-seed Akron Zips.

Buffalo will close out the regular season on the road against Bowling Green this Friday.

“We are getting better; I think the rest of the conference knows it. We now have to settle-in heading into the tournament” said Witherspoon.

TAGGED: buffalo bulls, dj cooper, mac basketball, mac tournament, ohio bobcats, university at buffalo, will regan

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