As hot as the Miami RedHawks were in the first half, the Ohio Bobcats were feeling it just as much in the second half of the 192nd installment of the Battle of the Bricks Saturday afternoon. Ohio, which trailed by as much as 18 points earlier in the game, won 82-75, in large part due to the contributions of Nick Kellogg and a career day from Travis Wilkins.
Kellogg netted 27 points, and hit four threes in the victory, while dishing out four assists. Wilkins, the "Stormin' Mormon", himself hit several clutch three's down the stretch to pull Ohio back from yet another double-digit deficit, something that Ohio has become familiar with as of late.
Ohio has now come from at least 12 points down in each of its last four victories, the likes of which included Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo and now Miami. It's also the sixth time in the past 13 games that the team has rallied from a halftime deficit to win.
"One stop led to another and we fed off that" Kellogg said. in the post-game press conference "It's kind of frustrating that we've done this five times." (head coach Jim Christian interjected to add "six times.")
It was somewhat of an emotional game as well, as Ohio paid tribute to the late Charlie Coles. Christian wore a green turtleneck in honor to the late Miami head coach known for his turtleneck and blazer, and highly entertaining press conferences. During his own press conference after the game, Christian explained his wardrobe choice.
Jim Christian wearing a green turtleneck in honor of former Miami head coach Charlie Coles #OhioMBB pic.twitter.com/cE6BIYwDsz— OhioMen'sBasketball (@OhioMensBBall) February 8, 2014
"A long time ago I made this commitment to myself that I was going to honor my friend today, because he means so much to this game, the Ohio-Miami rivalry. I just made this choice to do that and I'll do it every time we play Miami."
In game action, the 'Hawks swooped out of the gates early on, a team very much on a mission from the start. Will Felder scored six of his team's first 10 points and grabbed several offensive boards. Miami out-hustled and out-muscled the Bobcats early.
The RedHawks started to slowly extend their early lead, going up a much as 45-27 with 2:00 left in the first half. At the end of 20 minutes, much of which the Bobcats looked helpless to stop Miami, the RedHawks sported a 47-32 lead. Coming in at 17th nationally in steals, Miami swiped the Bobcats' pockets six times (they did so nine times in the game) and converted on 12-13 free throws (15-17 overall).
Miami's Jaryd Eustace and Bill Edwards had career games in the first half alone. Both picked up 14 points in the first half, and Edwards finished with 19 on the game. Miami shot 46.4 percent in the first half, including 7-of-10 from long range.
But the 'Cats refused to quit, and started a slow and methodical comeback in the second half.
Wilkins, after hitting three treys in the first half, hit three more in setting a new career high with 20 points while only turning the ball over once in 31 minutes of play. Wilkins role increased as forward T.J. Hall struggled with foul trouble and Wilkins came through in a big-way in a big rivalry game.
Kellogg coupled with his teammate to hit several threes over a productive stretch where Ohio outscored Miami 28-9.
Around the 6:40 mark, the two squads began going back-and-forth. A jumper by Wilkins put Ohio at just one down and was soon followed up by a Jon Smith jumper to put the Bobcats up 60-59 with its first lead since they were up 3-2.
After the game Christian said, "since Ricardo (Johnson) has gone down he's (Wilkins) really stepped his game up. He's showing all the things that he can do. He doesn't turn the ball over, he makes good plays, he rebounds the ball he's physically overmatched probably every game because he's playing the three."
The two sides exchanged leads multiple times before Ohio grabbed the lead for good on a Kellogg 3-pointer that put Ohio up 68-65. A monster dunk by Jon Smith off of a Stevie Taylor assist put Ohio up five and the Bobcats found themselves at the free throw line in the final minutes to clinch the game.
Maurice Ndour added 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds. No Bobcat that scored had less than nine points. Taylor and Smith finished with nine each, and Taylor finished with six assists. The Bobcats scored 50 points in the second half and finished the game shooting 52.7 percent from the field, while hitting 11 3-pointers.
It was extra passes and sharp-shooting that gave Ohio its seventh conference win, and improved its winning streak over arch rival Miami to five games. The Bobcats are now 17-6 on the season.
Miami fell to 5-5 in the MAC, and 9-12 overall.
Ohio has a rematch away with Toledo on Wednesday night, and Miami has Buffalo the same night.