Nashville, TN – A pair of teams not expected to be facing off seeded Bulls of South Florida at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
Ohio earned the right to advance to the round of 32 with a thrilling 65-60 upset over No. 4 Michigan on Friday night. The victory was the 28th of the year for the Bobcats, which is a school record for wins in a single-season. The previous mark, 25, was set by the 1993-94 squad. The Bobcats have now won nine of their last 10 contests, including five straight.
As for South Florida, the Bulls continued the day of upsets when the club notched a 58-44 triumph over No. 5 Temple late Friday evening. The win was just the second in the NCAA Tournament in 20 years for USF, which got the two- decade monkey off its back in a 65-54 win over California on Wednesday night in first-round action.
The winner of this game will move into the Sweet 16 against either North Carolina or Creighton. These two teams have met just once prior, with Ohio earning a 73-63 win during the 1974-75 season.
D.J. Cooper posted a game-high 21 points to lead Ohio to the five-point verdict over Michigan, a contest during which the Bobcats shot at a 51.2 percent pace. The squad added a 15-for-17 performance at the foul line as well, and made good on 6-of-16 from long range. The Bobcats never trailed during the second stanza, and held Michigan to without a field goal over the final four minutes of play. Walter Offutt added 11 points in the win for Ohio, while Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely netted 10 points apiece, with the former also responsible for a team-high seven boards.
Cooper leads the Bobcats in scoring this season, contributing 14.7 points per game to go with a whopping 198 assists. He is joined in double figures only by Offutt (11.7 ppg), although Keely and Ivo Baltic do have solid contributions of 9.3 and 9.1 ppg, respectively. Ohio tallies 70.6 ppg this year, although the club has gotten into trouble with its lackluster 43.1 team shooting percentage. Opponents, on the other hand, net just 62.3 ppg against the Bobcats, and have been kept in check to a dismal 29.7 ppg.
The Bulls overcame an ice-cold first half that saw the squad go an abysmal 3- for-27 from the field, by hitting 60.9 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes to capture a 14-point win over Temple. The Bulls still shot only 34.0 percent from the floor overall during the meeting, but held the Owls to a 35.7 percent clip that included just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. The Bulls forced a game-high 13 turnovers as well, and won the battle of the boards by a 37-28 margin. Victor Rudd, Jr. and Anthony Collins scored 17 points apiece to lead the way for USF, which also got nine points from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick off the bench.
A better effort was definitely expected out of the Owls, but the Bulls did exactly what they do best -- shut teams down at the other end of the court. The Bulls have allowed opponents to net a mere 56.9 ppg this season, and have kept those adversaries in check to the tune of a 38.8 percent clip that includes only 29.7 percent from three-point range. The Bulls tally just 59.2 ppg on 43.6 percent shooting, but get to the foul line plenty (549 attempts up to this point), and have made good on 70.5 percent of those opportunities. The Bulls are still without a double-digit scorer this season, although Augustus Gilchrist stands right at the cusp and leads USF with 9.6 ppg.