With North Carolina having to go without starting point guard Kendall Marshall due to a fractured bone in his right wrist, there was the potential for Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper to win the battle at the point decisively.
For a guy who has led the Bobcats to three NCAA tournament wins in their last two appearances, how difficult could a match-up with unheralded freshman Stilman White be?
Plenty difficult, especially when your shots aren’t falling. Cooper made just three of his twenty shots from the field, scoring ten points and dishing out six assists (four turnovers) in the Bobcats’ 73-65 overtime defeat.
“I’ve been getting those same shots all tournament,” said Cooper after the game. “I’ve been making them, and tonight I just didn’t get the job done.”
Cooper shot his lowest percentage (15%) from the field since a January 28th win over Ball State, when he made just 1 of 7 shots on the day.
Against North Carolina the junior (nor his teammates) wasn’t able to get much going in the paint against the Tar Heels’ long-armed defenders, and that led to relying on the 3-point shot.
Cooper went 1 of 10 from deep (Ohio: 12 of 32 as a team), and the Bobcats’ shooting from inside the arc (11 of 39) didn’t help matters either.
Cooper didn’t play his best game but it’s also important to point out that it took more than one player’s off night to result in the end of Ohio’s season.
In addition to the poor shooting inside of the arc Ohio was whipped on the glass as they were out-rebounded 63-30, with three Tar Heels (Reggie Bullock, John Henson and Tyler Zeller) combining for 43 of those rebounds.
“I would have liked to have competed a little bit better there,” remarked head coach John Groce. “But fortunately for us what was able to cancel that out was the fact that we turned them over 24 times to our 13. So the possession battle ended up being about even and thank goodness.”
Unfortunately for Ohio, the combination of rebounding woes and their star’s roughest night of the season proved to be too much for them to overcome.