DeKALB – If Wednesday reinforced anything, it's that Ohio guard D.J. Cooper is a special player.
And if Wednesday proved anything, it's that Northern Illinois has no answer for him in what already is shaping up to be a long four years of games for the Huskies against the freshman guard.
Cooper, a high school teammate of fellow NIU freshman Tony Nixon, was unstoppable at times and along with guard Armon Bassett controlled the pace of the entire second half of Ohio's 99-84 victory over the Huskies at the Convocation Center.
Cooper scored 29 points and had six assists with no turnovers while Bassett chipped in with 25 points and seven assists for the Bobcats (11-9, 2-4 MAC East).
"We just come in and try and play defense and take what the defense gives us," Cooper said. "The ball went in for us tonight."
Ohio dominated the game in transition, an area NIU coach Ricardo Patton said the Huskies (8-10, 4-2 MAC West) prepared for in film sessions and in practice.
"I think Ohio is as committed to the fast break as any team we'll face all season," Patton said. "They really do a nice job and it starts with D.J. Cooper. He's a guy that understands how to pitch ahead, how to run a team. There were times when we made shots and celebrated too long and didn't get back."
The game started out as the Cooper and Xavier Silas show, as Silas scored the Huskies' first 15 points and Cooper netted Ohio's first eight. Silas finished the game with a career-high 31 but was slowed after Ohio's 2-3 zone focused on stopping the junior guard.
Patton said although Silas led the Huskies on offense, he was as responsible as anyone on defense for allowing the Bobcats to score at will.
"I thought defensively Silas was as bad as he's been all year," Patton said. "I thought he gave up. Even though he had 31 points, I thought he gave up as many as he made."
Silas said the Huskies couldn't find any defensive intensity.
"We just came out with a lack of intensity, and any time you do that on the defensive end, and you give up 99 points, it's hard to win when you don't have defensive intensity," Silas said.
NIU shot 6 of 26 from three-point range, including 2 of 12 from the second half when Ohio extended its lead over the final 10 minutes to secure the win.
"There's no question we took some poor shots from three," Patton said. "Silas took some poor shots. Mike DiNunno took some poor shots from three. Too far. Too deep. I think because Silas came out making shots from three-point range, he stepped back, almost outside the gym. Those are bad shots."