KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Junior Bubba Walther led all Bobcats with 20 points, 10 of them coming in overtime, as Ohio defeated Western Michigan 78-73 in overtime Tuesday for the Bobcats' first back-to-back conference road wins since the 2003 season. "I'm so proud of the guys tonight because they overcame so much," O'Shea said. "This is a huge win for us. We are right back in the thick of things in the MAC. What a win for this team. This is as good a road win as any that I can remember in my time here." Ohio (16-7, 7-3) had last won back-to-back Mid-American Conference road games on Jan. 21 and Feb. 1 of the 2003 season. The Bobcat victory also ended a four-game losing streak at Western Michigan (10-13, 5-5) dating back to Jan. 6, 1999. Ohio also handed the Broncos their first home loss this season after an 8-0 start in Kalamazoo.
Coaching in his 100th MAC game with Ohio, O'Shea led the Bobcats to a 7-3 start in MAC play for the second time in his Ohio coaching career. The Bobcats also started the conference slate 7-3 in the 2001-02 season, O'Shea's first as Ohio's head coach. Tuesday's win also made sure the Bobcats did not lose a third MAC road contest in overtime this season. Ohio had previously fallen in road overtime games to Kent State and Miami. "The law of averages says they can't all go against you," O'Shea said. "What a great, great performance from our team tonight. This is as close to playing a complete 40 minutes on the road as I can remember."
The Bobcats finished the contest 27-of-61 (44-percent) and was 16-of-21 from the free throw line. Ohio lost the rebounding battle 41-33 but made up for it with a 20-15 edge in turnovers. The Bobcats forced six turnovers in the overtime period and finished the game with a 26-15 advantage in points off turnovers. "We went to a trapping 1-3-1 defense and they got shaky with the ball and we were able to capitalize," O'Shea said." Walther (Cincinnati, Ohio) posted a team-best 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line. He saved his best for last as he recorded 10 points in overtime and sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds to ice the contest. He made all four of his free throw attempts in the game and has now converted on 30 consecutive chances from the charity stripe. Walther hit two threes in overtime and also finished with five steals on the night.
"What can you say about some of the clutch shots Bubba hit tonight?" O'Shea said. "He hit a big one that I thought was the back breaker for them." Junior Leon Williams (Baltimore, Md.) and sophomore Jerome Tillman (Beavercreek, Ohio) once again had a hand in the Bobcat win. Williams finished one rebound shy of a double-double for the fourth time this season with 15 points and nine rebounds. He was 7-of-10 from the floor in the win. Tillman was not far behind with 15 points and eight rebounds. Tillman has now reached double figures in scoring in 10 straight contests. He added four steals to his impressive night. Senior Sonny Troutman (Indianapolis, Ind.), making his 100th consecutive start for Ohio, posted a career-high nine assists in helping Ohio to victory. Troutman tallied 12 points and added five rebounds, three steals and a block. Senior Whitney Davis (Ann Arbor, Mich.) finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists. Ohio received seven points from the bench, five from senior Stephen King (Richfield, Minn.) and two from freshman Kenneth van Kempen (Weert, the Netherlands).
"Tonight was another great effort from (van Kempen) and also from Stephen King," O'Shea said. "We also had some good minutes from Matt Annen tonight. That's the difference between our team from last year is we have that nice backup center we can put out there. He can really play some defense. Those are things that will never show up in the stat sheet but are a big difference from last year to this year. The Broncos were 24-of-61 (39-percent) in the contest and made 8-of-24 shots from beyond the three-point arc. David Kook tied Walther for a game-high 20 points while Derek Drews added 12. Drews also led the team with eight rebounds in the loss. The Bobcats came out with a hot hand on the cold and snowy night in Kalamazoo. Like he had done in each of Ohio's previous four games, Tillman got the `Cats on the board first and his teammates help build a 6-0 advantage before the host Broncos got their first points 3:35 into the game. The Bobcats kept up the pressure and scored the game's next eight points to go ahead 14-2. Troutman keyed what resulted in a six-point possession during the run. After recovering the ball following a steal on the Bronco offensive end, Troutman dribbled the length of the court for a lay-up, but was intentionally fouled. He then sank both free throws and van Kempen dropped in a jumper 19 seconds into Ohio's subsequent possession to give the Bobcats a 12-2 lead.
A Tillman lay-up then pushed Ohio ahead 14-2 and forced a Western Michigan timeout at 15:03. Out of the timeout however, the tide turned in the Broncos' favor. WMU put together a 17-4 run over the course of the next eight minutes and took its first lead of the game on a Shawntes Gary lay-up with 6:15 remaining in the frame. Western Michigan extended its run out to 22-7 as it took a three-point advantage, 24-21, but Ohio was able to break out of its funk and reverse the Broncos' momentum. Williams sandwiched two inside buckets around a Troutman three as Ohio answered with a quick 7-0 spurt to regain the lead, 28-24 with 3:40 remaining. The Broncos limited Ohio to just one more score the rest of the half, however, and was able to draw even with the Bobcats as the game went to halftime tied 30-30.
Troutman led all scorers in the half with nine points and added five assists. Joe Reitz paced Western Michigan with seven. After a hot start, Ohio shot just 37.9-percent from the floor in the half, and made just 3-of-15 three point attempts. The Broncos were similarly cold from the field as they shot 38.5-percent overall and 3-of-11 from behind the arc. Out of the break the two teams did little more than trade buckets for the bulk of the second half. Neither team had gained more than a three-point advantage on the other until the Broncos dropped in back-to-back treys at 11:30 and 10:38 to go up 51-45. Western Michigan then added two more points to take its largest lead of the game, 53-45, with 9:20 remaining. Davis had the answer for Ohio with four-straight points to start the comeback. The Bobcats picked away at the eight-point Western Michigan advantage over the course of the next five minutes and two free throws by Tillman at 4:08 put Ohio back ahead 57-56. Crucial to the run was the Bobcat defense, which did not allow a WMU field goal for nearly seven minutes. The lead then changed hands four more times in regulation, but the Broncos had to rely exclusively on free throws during its extended field goal drought. Michael Redell finally broke the streak with 1:29 left on the clock on a shot that tied the game at 62.
Both teams had chances to win in regulation, but Troutman missed a three with 1:10 left and Bronco freshman David Kool missed a 15-foot jumper with one second on the clock, which sent the game to overtime. In Ohio's fourth overtime game of the season, it was the home-standing Broncos that struck first on a Gary lay-up. Walther had the quick answer for the Bobcat however, as he sandwiched two long-distance threes around a pair of Tillman free throws and Ohio forged ahead 70-66 with 2:43 left. Williams then added to the run with a bucket in the paint that put Ohio up 72-66 with 1:18 on the clock. The Broncos would manage to record five of the game's next seven points to draw within three, 74-71, on a three by Kook with 24 seconds left. Walther then tacked on two free throws to give Ohio a five point-cushion. Kool then dribbled the length of the floor to knock down a jumper to cut the lead to three again to make it 76-73. The Broncos fouled Tillman on the ensuing inbound pass and the sophomore Bobcat's attempt was off the mark to give Western Michigan a final chance. Walther did not let that chance happen, however, as he stole the outlet pass and sank a pair of free throws to ice the 78-73 Ohio win. The Bobcats return home this Saturday for a MAC contest against Northern Illinois. Tip-off is schedule for 3:00 p.m. at the Convocation Center as Ohio looks for its fourth-straight win.
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