AMHERST -- Jesse Morgan had a career night for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team. For one night at least, coach Derek Kellogg didn't have to sweat.
Morgan scored 35 points, putting him tied for 13th place on the UMass single-game scoring list and the Minutemen put Ohio University away with an 85-76 win Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.
For the Minutemen, now 6-3, it was the first win by a comfortable margin and was their third straight victory.
"That probably was a good feeling to win by a nice margin," Morgan said with a laugh. "We did what we had to do."
What the Minutemen had to do was rally from a 12-point, first-half deficit. UMass took the lead thanks to a 23-1 run in the first half.
"I can't fathom right now that we're not still playing or it's a one-point game," Kellogg said. "It actually feels good that we won by more than two points or an overtime game. Maybe we're growing and getting better as a team."
Nobody grew more in one night than Morgan. The junior guard from Philadelphia had 24 of his 35 points in the first half. For the game, Morgan was 12 of 18 from the floor and 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point arc.
Morgan's 35-point performance ties him for 13th on the all-time UMass single-game scoring record. He is tied with six other players including Julius Erving and Berkshire County's Bob Eichorn. The Adams native scored his 35 against New Hampshire on Feb. 27, 1960.
On that 23-1 run in the first half, Morgan scored 18 of the points. His first two came on a pull-up jumper with 13:20 left. Five minutes later, Morgan took a pass from Chaz Williams and drained a 3-pointer to turn an 18-6 deficit into a 29-19 lead.
"After my first shot, I just felt like I couldn't miss again," said Morgan.
In a quick media scrum right after the game, Morgan was asked about taking some deep 3s and whether he has an outside range.
"In-the-gym range," he said. "[The hoop] was like an ocean -- big."
Williams, who scored only nine points but had eight assists, said that once Morgan starts getting hot, he knows what to do.
"Without a doubt, you've got to get the ball to him," the UMass point guard said. "You can't let plays go without him touching the ball, and that's what I was out there trying to do."
UMass led 48-40 at halftime, but the Bobcats gradually clawed their way back into the game. Coming out of the first media timeout of the second half, Ohio's D.J. Cooper drained a trey to bring the Bobcats back and tie the game at 53. After the teams traded baskets, Morgan hit a 3 from the left wing while standing on the Jack Leaman Court logo by the UMass bench. That put the Minutemen up 58-55, and they never trailed again.
Cady Lalanne came off the bench for UMass to score 12 points and pull down 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
D.J. Cooper had 23 points to lead Ohio (7-3), while Walter Offutt had 18 points and Nick Kellogg had 15.
It might have been the best 40 minutes of basketball the Minutemen have played so far in the 2012-13 season, but the players don't seem to be ready to rest on their laurels just yet.
"It has to be, but there's still another level," said Williams. "We still understand that we have a lot more to give and a lot more to show.
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