COLLEGE BASKETBALL

D.J. Cooper, Ohio University ready to face UNC

2012-03-22T22:00:00Z 2012-03-23T01:40:43Z D.J. Cooper, Ohio University ready to face UNCBy Mike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
March 22, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

D.J. Cooper and his Ohio University teammates have taken a few minutes to soak up what they have accomplished so far.

The Bobcats, a No. 13 seed, knocked off No. 4 Michigan, then beat South Florida to advance to the NCAA's Sweet 16.

Ohio (29-7) and Mid-American Conference champs, will face top-seeded North Carolina (31-5) tonight at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis in a Midwest Regional game. This is the first time since 1964 the Bobcats have made it to the Sweet 16.

"It is quite an honor and a major accomplishment," Cooper said. "The last time was 1964 and we are excited right now and we know we have a tough task ahead of us."

The status of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall is uncertain, though Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Wednesday his team plans to play without him. He broke his right wrist in Sunday's win over Creighton.

Cooper, a Seton Academy grad, said he is focused on preparing for Friday and chose not to elaborate on statements he and his parents made the past weekend. Cooper and his parents said Baylor coach Scott Drew and then-Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl tried to entice him to transfer from Ohio.

"I have no comment on that," Cooper said Tuesday afternoon. A university spokesman said the university will not comment on the matter. Both Drew and Pearl have denied such allegations in various published reports.

Cooper did comment on North Carolina.

"We know they are a good team and we have to play a good game," Cooper said. "We are excited to still be playing and when we play our game, we feel we can compete with anyone."

Cooper, who was The Times 2009 Illinois Player of the Year, led Seton Academy to the Class 2A state title in 2009. He was the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year in 2010 when he had 23 points as the Bobcats upset Georgetown in the NCAA tournament.

In the win over Michigan, Cooper had 21 points and five assists, then followed it up with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the win over South Florida on Sunday.

The Country Club Hills resident is the program's all-time assists leader with 686. His 257 steals rank him second behind Sonny Troutman (259). He is a two-time all-MAC selection. He was named second-team of the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 14 team.

Bobcats coach is John Groce, who is from Danville, Ind. and played at Taylor University for Morton grad Paul Patterson.

Cooper is averaging 14.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Cooper said he hopes the Bobcats can keep the program on the college basketball map.

"We are mostly juniors, so we want to keep it going, but we have to worry about North Carolina first," Cooper said. "We would like to get the program noticed and we have had a lot of support from our community here."

Ohio is 3-1 in NCAA tournament games as it has made it to the NCAAs two out of the last three years.

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