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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 15, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Quicken Loans Arena (20,562) -- Cleveland, Ohio State. Television: SportsTime Ohio Home Record: WMU 11-2, Ohio 16-2. Away Record: WMU 6-9, Ohio 7-6. Neutral Record: WMU 3-0, Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 10-6, Ohio 14-2. Series Record: Ohio leads, 64-59.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Ohio Bobcats begin defense of their Mid-American Conference Tournament crown on Friday as they tangle with the third-seeded Western Michigan Broncos in the semifinals.
This will be the first taste of postseason action for Ohio since its magical run to the 2012 Sweet 16. The Bobcats lost their head coach from that squad, Jim Groce, to Illinois, but have not missed a beat as Jim Christian took over the helm. Christian's Bobcats earned the triple-bye into the semifinal round by winning all of their conference games besides their two bouts with Akron.
Akron may be the team Ohio needs to take down to defend its title successfully, as the winner of this game will take on the victor of the Zips and Kent State in the title game.
Ohio has one of the most productive offenses in the nation with an average of 73.8 ppg. It also leads Division I programs in assists with 17.9 per tilt. The Bobcats won seven MAC road games to set a new school record. Senior guard D.J. Cooper earned First Team All-MAC honors Monday for the third-straight season. Fellow seniors Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt were named to the 2013 All-MAC Third Team. Cooper, who paces the squad with 14.2 points and 7.2 assists per outing, played an instrumental role in the Bobcats' surprising run through 2012's MAC Tournament. The senior floor general has some nice weapons surrounding him in Keely (11.9 ppg), Offutt (10.9 ppg) and Nick Kellogg (8.3 ppg).
This will be the 124th meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Ohio owns a 64-59 all-time series edge thanks to its 61-59 decision over the Broncos on Jan. 12 in the lone regular-season meeting of the 2012-13 slate.
Steve Hawkins' Broncos tipped off their postseason schedule on Thursday by coasting to a 70-55 win over Eastern Michigan. Shayne Whittington led the way with 23 points, while Darius Paul added 14 points, David Brown scored 12 points and Brandon Pokley tallied 11 points. WMU had a successful season and tied Kent State for first place in the West Division standings.
Whittington notched his 11th double-double of the season in the regular-season finale, which is the most by a WMU player in a single season in over 10 years. Paul (10.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) had a decent campaign as well and will be a dangerous second option come tournament time. The Broncos, who are sixth in the conference in scoring (67.0) and third in scoring defense (63.4), won the MAC Tournament only once, in 2004.
WMU played well and did not exert all of its energy on Thursday in its postseason opener. Ohio struggled to take down WMU in the only regular-season bout, but it has to be the favorite to advance not only to the championship game, but also to the Big Dance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio 74, Western Michigan 68
03/15 10:32:31 ET