Hampton (0-3) learned it's not far from being more competitive once it figures out how to handle the lulls expected with a young ballclub. Ohio (4-0) found out rebounding is an every-night exercise. Senior guard Walter Offutt scored a team season-high 23 points to lead three Ohio players in double figures. However, he had a frown afterward because the Bobcats won despite allowing a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. "We didn't block out," said Offutt, who hit a career-high 13 free throws on 15 attempts. "We looked for the ball instead of finding a guy to box out." Ivo Baltic added 16 points and D.J. Cooper chipped in 12 points and seven assists for the Bobcats, who return all five starters and their top nine players from a year ago. "Yeah, we're disappointed in the way we played," Baltic said. "We just got punked on the boards." Hampton got a big night from center David Bruce, who produced a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Deron Powers added 12 points for the Pirates, and Dwight Meikle scored 11. The Pirates stayed in the game until the final minute, despite trailing by 17 at halftime. Hampton and Ohio both fought through a slew of whistles -- the teams combined for 45 personal fouls and 51 free throws. Unlike Ohio, Hampton has nine new faces on the roster this year and is learning on the go. The Pirates held up well against a team that reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament last spring. "We think we're making better progress to become a better team," said Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. "At some point they're going to get paid for their work. Now we have to go chase that." Ohio led 44-27 at halftime but could never fully separate from the young Pirates, who stayed in the game thanks to their work on the offensive glass. Hampton piled up 23 second-chance points. Twice Hampton sliced the margin to nine points in the second, and it got as close as 69-61 with 2:39 to go. But Baltic converted a right-hand hook shot from the right block on the next possession for Ohio, then Offutt and Cooper made a combined three free throws a minute later to push the lead back to 74-63 with less than a minute to go. It was a tougher-than-expected win for Ohio, which had won its first three games by an average of 30 points. "The season started tonight," Ohio coach Jim Christian said. "We got tested. I thought Hampton out-toughed us on the glass, it wasn't even close." Offutt hit four of his seven first-half shots, including two uncontested 3-pointers, as the Bobcats used a big run late in the half to pull away from Hampton. The Pirates, paced by Bruce's eight points and four rebounds off the bench, led 25-24 with 6:33 left in the half after Powers converted a scoop layup. But the Bobcats responded with a 20-2 run to end the half. Offutt started the run with his back-to-back 3-pointers from the top of the key, where he was forgotten by the Hampton defense. Offutt, who also had three early steals, continued the run with a three-point play on a post-up in the lane, and he subsequently added two more free throws. Ohio also scored five points in the final 33 seconds of the half. Baltic, who had 12 first-half points, scored on a layup in transition, then ended the half with a 3-pointer from the right corner that beat the buzzer. "Through that stretch, we were playing four freshmen at points. It happens. You got to be able to bounce back," Joyner said. "No, I don't like it. But they got to go through this to get better." NOTES: The game was the first-ever meeting between Ohio (MAC) and Hampton (MEAC). ... All three of the Pirates' losses this season have been on the road. Hampton was 1-13 in true road games last season. ... The Bobcats have won 13 straight home games and have scored at least 70 point in each of their last seven home games. ... The game was part of the Nations of Coaches Classic, an exempt, round-robin event that includes Ohio, Hampton, Richmond, UNC-Wilmington and Wofford. Hampton continues the tournament Friday with a home date against Wofford, while Ohio wraps up play in the event Saturday at home against Richmond.
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