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March 15, 2013
The Ohio Bobcats (24-8) defeated the Western Michigan Broncos (20-12) 74-63 in front of 10,324 fans at Quicken Loans Arena to advance to the MAC Championship Saturday night.
The Broncos defeated Eastern Michigan 70-55 Thursday night in the MAC Quarterfinals to earn the right to face the Bobcats in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament.
Western Michigan hung with the Bobcats early as Darius Paul hit a pair of buckets to keep the game tied 8-8 heading into the first media timeout. According to multiple reports, Paul was declared a game-time decision due to food poisoning the night before.
A heavily favored Ohio crowd would spark the Bobcats to an 8-0 outburst with under 12 minutes remaining in the first half. D.J. Cooper showed why he was voted MAC Player of the Year, as he controlled the pace on the floor, extending the Bobcat lead to as much as 19 points in the first half.
The Broncos came out in the second half focused and poised to make a run. They would open the second half on 10-2 run, as they appeared to make a conscious effort to attack the interior. Darius Paul was the early benefactor, as he quickly etched double-digits.
WMU continued to claw back throughout much of the second half, cutting the Ohio lead to just four points with 11:07 to go after a David Brown running jumper.
However, the deficit was just too much to overcome for the Broncos, who simply wouldn't go away quietly. The Broncos would trim the lead to just two, but it was a deadly D.J. Cooper three-pointer with 10:04 left that pierced through the hearts of Bronco fans to help re-establish a five-point lead for the Bobcats.
From there, Ohio continued to show their experience and knocked down big shot after big shot. Nick Kellogg closed the game late for Ohio hitting a pair of three's in the final minutes to eventually put the game out of reach.
D.J. Cooper led all scorers with 21 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals. Walter Offutt and Reggie Keely added 14 and 12 respectively.
Nate Hutcheson and Darius Paul finished with 16 point apiece, while Brandon Pokley and David Brown added 10 points each.
The Bobcats will face the regular season champion and one-seed Akron Zips (25-6) Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. to determine who will advance to the NCAA Tournament via an automatic bid.
The Western Michigan Broncos finish the season at 20-12 overall, having tremendously exceeded pre-season expectations. They'll now wait and hope for a post-season bid in either the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), or the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
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