Photo Caption: Ohio's Ricardo Johnson puts up a shot against UMass's Raphiael Putney in the ’Cats' 83-71 loss at the Convo Wednesday night.
As the Ohio Bobcats went on an early second-half run, energizing the crowd at the Convocation Center, it appeared that they had found the momentum an underdog needs to pull off an upset.
Instead, the No. 20 UMass Minutemen found answers just as they had the entire game, pulling away to pick up an 83-71 win Wednesday night.
At that point, the Bobcats (7-3) had cut the Minutemen (10-0) lead to 53-47 after a Stevie Taylor layup with 16:12 to play, and whipped the crowd of 6,329 further into a frenzy when Jon Smith blocked a shot immediately on the other end of the floor.
UMass then answered with a 9-0 run that dashed the hopes of Ohio beating a ranked team at home for the first time since 1995.
"There's times where we got caught up in the emotion of the game," Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. "I give (UMass) credit because they didn't get caught up in the emotion."
The Bobcats did their job of limiting Naismith Player of the Year candidate Chaz Williams to 11 points, but other Minutemen players picked up the slack.
Williams racked up 11 assists with many of them coming from baskets by Maxie Esho and Derrick Gordon. Esho finished with 16 points on seven of eight shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds while Gordon added 13 points on five of eight shooting.
Ohio had trouble keeping UMass away from making high-percentage. The Minutemen shot 61.5 percent from the field, and five UMass players ended up scoring in double figures.
"We wanted to keep the ball out of the lane. We didn't do a very good job of that," Christian said. "We wanted to play good transition defense. Our transition defense was probably as bad as it's been since I've been here."
A few opportunities arose for the Bobcats to grab momentum during the contest, beginning with a highlight-reel dunk by Maurice Ndour on a fast break that appeared to awake the team from a slow start.
Ndour was the only Bobcat to find a way to score on the Minutemen defense in the first half, making four of seven shots, but he would be held to just two buckets in the second half to finish with 16 points.
"Defensively they didn't do anything that could have prevented me from scoring," Ndour said. "It was just a matter of executing."
UMass then went on an 11-3 run after the slam to increase the lead to 17-8 and spent most of the first half leading by double digits.
The Bobcats dug themselves into a hole yet again by failing to make shots from behind the arc. Ohio shot just one of 11 from three-point territory in the first half and just five of 21 for the game.
"(The numbers) speak for themselves," T.J. Hall said. "We had a lot of open looks… We need those shots to beat a team like UMass and the other teams we've lost to."
Late in the first half, the Bobcats caught a second wind and went on an 8-3 spurt to bring the Minutemen lead down to 40-32, but UMass answered with two quick baskets that gave them a 45-34 advantage at half.
After the scare early in the second half, UMass' lead grew to as much as 19 before a late Ohio outburst in the game's final moments.
The Bobcats hit the road for their next contest Sunday against Richmond.