The win lifted CMU to 15-4 overall and 5-3 in the MAC. The Chippewas are 12-0 at home and play their next two - Wednesday against Bowling Green and Saturday against rival Western Michigan – on the friendly floor of McGuirk.
"To be able to have the fan support that we have, and watch it grow, not just from previous years, but to watch it grow this year is something that really drives us," CMU coach Keno Davis said. "I don't know that we win tonight's game without the fans. I really don't.
Javarez Willis scored 14 points to lead Ohio, 7-12, 2-6, while Ryan Taylor and Antonio Campbell added 12 each and Maurice Ndour had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
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A three-pointer by Blake Hibbitts with 6:27 left re-upped CMU's lead to seven points. Hibbitts later triggered a 6-0 spurt with a put-back, extending the Chippewas' lead to 11, 67-56, with under 2:40 remaining.
It marked the first time that Hibbitts had scored since CMU's win over Buffalo 10 days ago, and it was an example of the Chippewas' depth. Davis used 11 players in the game. Hibbitts, a junior forward, finished with five points, four rebounds and a steal in just 12 minutes.
"I think Blake Hibbitts is a great example of that," Davis said. "It's those specific plays; those little plays are winning plays. You don't just see that from a Blake Hibbitts, but you see Austin Stewart come up with a big play, you see Austin Keel come in and make a play here or there.
"When you have a team that's as deep as we are, we need to have a different guy each night step up and make big plays and I think you're seeing that."
The Chippewas didn't light the world on fire, making 26 of their 56 (46.4 percent) field goal tries including 35.5 percent (11 of 31) of their three-point attempts. They were also out-rebounded, 34-28, but they found a way hang on.
CMU committed just nine turnovers while forcing 16 from the Bobcats.
"A game like this, I think, … shows how far we've come as a team and developed as a team," said Simons, who led CMU with nine rebounds. "In a game like this last year or the year before, there's no saying whether we would have been able to pull it out in the end or whether we would have been able to make the plays down the stretch to win the game.
"That's a big step for us, being able to make plays down the stretch and being able to make free throws and being able to care of the ball."
The win keeps CMU in first place in the MAC West, something that would have perhaps seemed like a pipe dream in recent years as the mid-point of the conference schedule looms.
"I can't sit here and say that we're not excited based on the two years that we've had previously, but we also don't want to get complacent," said Fowler, who finished with a game-high six assists and committed just one turnover. "We want to continue to come out and work as hard as we can every day and improve. We want to continue to build on this. We want to leave a great legacy here. Yes we're excited, we're happy to be where we are, but we want to continue to grow."
(Courtesy of CMU Athletics)