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Sunday, March 18, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Ohio 62, South Florida 56

By Chris Low



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A quick look at No. 13 seed Ohio’s 62-56 victory over No. 12 South Florida on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Regional at Bridgestone Arena:

Overview: It looked like South Florida’s size, length and suffocating defense might be too much for Ohio early on. The Bobcats went nearly nine minutes without a basket in the first half and ended the half by missing 14 of their last 15 shots. But they hung in there with some gritty defense of their own.

Once in the second half, the Bobcats found their stride offensively with different players stepping up and making big shots. They scored 41 points against USF in the second half, and the Bulls were a team that set a Big East Conference record this season by holding teams to an average of 56.7 points for an entire game.

Junior guard D.J. Cooper had his second straight big game and had 19 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. His floater in the final minutes just as the shot clock sounded put the Bobcats up by seven, and they were able to hit enough free throws in the final minutes to ensure their first trip to the Sweet 16 since the NCAA tournament began seeding. The Bobcats made it to the regional final in 1964.

Turning point: USF’s Jawanza Poland threw down an alley-oop dunk with 9:23 to play, giving the Bulls a 42-37 lead. But he was called for a technical foul for hanging onto the rim. Ohio's Nick Kellogg hit both free throws and then followed with a 3-pointer -- constituting a five-point possession -- to tie the game.

Key player: Cooper was outstanding again for the Bobcats, but they couldn’t have won without junior guard Walter Offutt's 21 points and four steals. Offutt was also 4-of-4 from 3-point range. His 3-pointer with 7:12 to play gave Ohio the lead for good.

Key stat: South Florida finished 2-of-15 from 3-point range, while Ohio was 9-of-18 from behind the arc.

Miscellaneous: South Florida missed some costly free throws in the final minutes. They missed four straight after falling behind 47-46, including two straight front ends of one-and-one opportunities. … Prior to that drought, the Bulls had made 11-of-12 from the free throw line. … South Florida dominated inside and outscored Ohio 32-12 on points in the paint.

What’s next: Ohio will now move on to the Sweet 16 to face No. 1 seed North Carolina on Friday in St. Louis.