CLEVELAND, OH During the regular season, the Ohio Bobcats played the Akron Zips on nearly even terms, but OU lost both games - the second in a double overtime thriller despite a career high 33 points from freshman D.J. Cooper. Saturday night, the Bobcats exacted their revenge as they defeated the Zips 81-75 in overtime to win the 2010 FirstEnergy MAC Mens Basketball Championship before 9.533 fans at Quicken Loans Arena.
Ohio (21-14) won the MAC Tournament for the fifth time in its history and the first since 2005 when they defeated Buffalo in overtime on the same floor 80-79 with Leon Williams tip-in basket in the final seconds. Ohio will now advance to the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in program history
Were thrilled to represent our conference. This one is for Bobcat Nation, Ohio head coach John Groce said. Our team has become stronger and closer with all the adversity we had to go through.
Junior guard Armon Bassett, named the tournament Most Valuable Player, led all scorers with 25 points, including a late breakaway layup that sent the Ohio crowd at the arena into sheer delight. The Terre Haute, Indiana native, who came to Athens after transferring from Indiana, set a MAC Tournament record with 116 total points in the four games
The last half of the season we grew up so much. The last month of the season we have won because our chemistry is great and our confidence is at such a high level right now. We would not have won a game like this earlier in the season, Bassett said.
Cooper, the 2010 MAC Freshman of the Year added 23 points with seven rebounds and six assists.
Akron (24-10) playing in its fourth consecutive MAC Championship game, saw a six-game tournament winning streak dating back to last season come to an end. The Zips 24 win season is tied for third-best in school history and Akron should get a call from either the NIT or the College Basketball Invitational tournament.
We just didnt shoot the ball well, but overall we battled. We had 23 offensive rebounds, but (it) basically came down to shooting, and we just didnt make man, Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said after the game.
Senior Jimmy Conyers, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year led four UA players in double digits with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow senior Chris McKnight added 18 points and 10 boards. Junior guard Steve McNees added 12 and Darryl Roberts had 11 coming off the bench
During this 2010 Tournament, UA has had a flare for the dramatic, and it happened again on Saturday. With Ohio leading 66-61 with 1:56 remaining on a Bassett free throw, the Zips got two consecutive baskets from Roberts to pull within one with 54 seconds remaining.
Bassett was fouled with 13.7 seconds remaining and converted both free throws for a 67-64 lead. McNees then hit a three-pointer from the top of the circle to tie the game with 6.8 seconds remaining. The Bobcats had a chance to win it in regulation but Coopers last second shot was off and the game went into overtime.
In their quarterfinal win over Eastern Michigan on Thursday, McNees hit a three with 0.6 seconds remaining in the first overtime to tie the game and send it to a second five minutes period after which Akron prevailed 97-89.
In Saturdays overtime, Ohio opened with a pair of three-point leads, the last being 75-72 with 3:00 remaining when DeVaughn Washington hit a pair of free throws. McNees tied the score 75-75 at the 1:40 mark with a trey from the top of the circle, but that would be UAs final points of the game.
The Bobcats took the lead for good on a Bassett jumper with 1:08 remaining and added two free throws with 24.9 seconds left. Bassetts slam with five seconds remaining capped Ohios victory and tournament run.
The game started with high tempo and high energy by both teams, but neither could get more than a four-point lead. Ohio ended the first half with a 36-34 halftime advantage after Cooper, who scored 14 points in the games first 20 minutes, went the length of the floor and made a layup just before the buzzer sounded. The native of Chicago had been struggling with an injury and foul trouble in over the last two games (against Kent State and Miami), limiting his effectiveness.
Ohio gained their halftime advantage by shooting 50 percent from the field (14-for-28) and was 6-for-11 from three point range while holding Akron, the second best field goal percentage team in the regular season to just 37.5 percent (12-for-32)
UA started the second half with five straight points to regain the lead thanks to a three-pointer by McNees and a short jumper by freshman Zeke Marshall. Ohio responded with six straight points to regain the lead 44-41 on a Bassett layup
The game remained close with neither team more than a three-point advantage. In fact the game was tied 13 times and saw 24 lead changes before the dramatic final moments.
Ohios victory ended something of a charmed life for Akron in the 2010 MAC tournament.
The Zips withstood a 42 point barrage from Eastern Michigans Carlos Medlock, along with having four players foul out, in a double overtime 97-89 quarterfinal victory on Thursday.
Friday night, Western Michigans David Kool scored 39 points, but Chris McKnight hit a three-pointer and put-back basket with 6.8 seconds remaining to post a 66-64 win in the semifinals. But after McNees three got them into overtime, Ohio found a way to win.
The Bobcats run to the title was similar to Akrons the year before as they had to win four games. They began as the ninth seed and on Sunday defeated Ball State on the road in overtime 85-77. Ohio was the lone road team to win on the road in the first round.
When they came to Cleveland, the Bobcats defeated top seed Kent State 81-64 in the quarterfinals after losing two close games to the Golden Flashes in the regular season.
In the semi-finals Ohio sent arch-rivals Miami out with a 54-42 win.
We had some tough losses in close games, so it was fitting the game ended as it did, Groce said.
Ohio has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1983 when they defeated Illinois State. In 2005 they came back from a huge deficit against Florida but fell in the final moments. Sunday they will find out who they will play and where.
NOTES: The game was the 61st lifetime meeting with Ohio taking a 31-30 lead..Just the second time they had met in MAC Tournament play with Ohio winning in the first round in 2003 79-77Ohio is 5-1 in MAC Championshp Games, Akron is 1-3Chris McKnight-UA has scored in double figures in four of his last five post-season games while picking up his second double-double of the seasonJimmy Conyers-UA had his eighth double-double of the seasonIn their head-to-head matchup UA head coach Keith Dambrot is 3-2 lifetime against Ohio head man John GroceDambrot has a 11-6 lifetime record against OhioThe 2010 MAC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Armon Bassett-Ohio,David Kool-Western Michigan, Carlos Medlock-Eastern Michigan.
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