By Jeff Goodman
D.J. Cooper was in a funk.
Ohio University's standout junior point guard had made just 15-of-64 shots from the field and 6-of-28 shots from beyond the arc in the last four games -- three losses.
The struggles began with a 3-for-17 performance in a setback to Robert Morris on Jan. 2, continued against Bowling Green and Buffalo -- and then came a brutal 2-for-15 outing in a loss last Saturday at Akron.
Cooper needed help -- and he got it from an unlikely source.
Ok, I didn't actually do anything to help Cooper get his shot back, but I'm going to take credit for it, anyway, since he was 6-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep in a 22-point win against Kent State.
"I'm OK with that," Cooper said on Friday.
I wound up taking a detour and stopping in Athens, Ohio, on my drive from Huntington, West Va., to Columbus for the Indiana-Ohio State game. Cooper gave me the quick tour of the campus, arena and we also sat down for a quick lunch at Broney's (the wings are big-time). He talked about how he needed to get in the gym more, since teams are daring him to take perimeter shots.
"They are daring me to shoot it knowing I want to get in the lane and kick it," Cooper said.
Cooper and the Bobcats had gotten off to a 12-1 start, one that included road wins against Marshall, Northern Iowa and Oakland. However, Ohio has dropped three of its last five.
One primary difference, Cooper said, was heading into MAC play as the hunted.
"We had a target -- and we'd never had that before," Cooper said. "The last couple years, we've always entered league play around .500. This was new to us."
Despite the 2-2 start in league play and the fact that any at-large hopes appear to be out the window now, Cooper comprehends that a few days in March are ultimately what matters most.
That's because two years ago, Cooper was a freshman on a team that went 7-9 in league play, but ran the table in the league tourney, earned a spot in the Big Dance and then pulled the upset over Georgetown in the first round.
"We want to win our conference," Cooper said. "Because that'll guarantee us at least an NIT bid. But we also know that it comes down to three days when it's all said and done."
Cooper is one of the most underrated point guards in the country, averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds. I didn't know his entire story, but he nearly committed to Baylor coming out of high school in Chicago, but opted to go the mid-major route and doesn't regret his decision at all.
He arrived in Athens as a 145-pound baby-faced freshman and now he's up to about 175 pounds.
When his shot is falling, he's lethal. Just ask Kent State coach Rob Senderoff.
Cooper's shooting slump -- for now -- is history.
But if he needs to break out, he's got my number. Soon, they may start calling me the Shot Doctor.