HONOLULU — Javarez Willis took it upon himself to atone for Monday’s 28-point loss to George Washington.
The rest of his Ohio team quickly followed.
Willis scored a career-high 31 points to lead five Bobcats in double figures and Ohio set a Diamond Head Classic record for points scored in a 99-78 rout of DePaul on Tuesday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Forward Maurice Ndour added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Treg Setty had 17 points and nine boards off the bench for the Bobcats (4-5), who will end the tournament on Thursday against the Nebraska-Loyola Marymount winner in the fifth-place game.
“Now we can crack out the leis and the grass skirts and say we did something on this trip,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “I hope we get a chance to perform well again on national TV (on Thursday).”
Darrick Wood had a team-high 15 points off the bench for the Blue Demons (6-6), who will play the Nebraska-Loyola Marymount loser in the seventh-place game after losing their fifth straight.
DePaul allowed Ohio to shoot 59.4 percent from the field and Willis to drop in a career-high seven 3-pointers.
“We didn’t get off to a good start and it didn’t get much better after that,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “Defensively, we weren’t very good.”
Willis set the tone with 10 points in a 15-6 run to open the game and never cooled off. As the Blue Demons tried to zero in on him, Willis, who had six assists, found his teammates for open looks routinely against a DePaul defense that was consistently a step behind.
“I couldn’t have had 31 tonight if it wasn’t for my teammates looking for me and trusting me with the ball,” Willis said. “We played like Ohio University today. It would have been a disgrace to come today not ready to play after losing by (28 on Monday).”
After falling behind by as many as 12, the Blue Demons made their run by spreading the floor and allowing guard Billy Garrett go to work at the top of the key. Garrett made four free throws and dropped in a 3-pointer to trim Ohio’s lead to the smallest margin of the half since the opening minutes at 29-27.
DePaul self-destructed late as Ohio took advantage of costly mistakes to go up 44-30 at the break.
Inbounding the ball under their own basket down four, the Blue Demons turned it over the first of five times in the last 4:23.
DePaul also gave up four offensive rebounds — three by Setty — that led to layups during an 11-0 run.
“Today we were all on the same page and it showed on the court,” Setty said. “We haven’t done it on the court up until today and it’s been frustrating, but today was the day we righted the ship.”
The Blue Demons never recovered as the Bobcats piled it on in the second half. Ndour punctuated the win throwing down a no-look lob from Setty for a thunderous dunk that gave Ohio its biggest lead at 95-68 with 2:09 remaining.
Only one of the eight players to score for the Bobcats shot below 50 percent from the field.
“I can’t control whether (Willis) is going to go out of his mind like that, but I can control the other things that I think we did well,” Phillips said. “The story of the game for me was how much better we got in transition defensively and how much better we rebounded the ball. We did those well and, combined with (Willis), it’s (a 20-point game) and we’re feeling good about things.”
DePaul struggled from the 3-point line again, shooting 30.8 percent (8 of 26, and is now 14 of 53 (26.4 percent) in the tournament.
The Blue Demons assisted on only seven of their 25 field goals and were outrebounded 38-29.
NOTES: Ohio’s point total bettered the previous tournament mark of 87 held by Indiana State (2012) and Xavier (2011). … Ohio F Maurice Ndour is the only player to start every game for the Bobcats this year. The native of Senegal is also the only Bobcat who speaks five different languages. … DePaul’s Jamee Crockett drained a 3-pointer in the second half to
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