Ohio Basketball: The 10 Most Significant Games of the Past 4 Years
Over the last four years, Ohio basketball climbed into the national spotlight on several occasions en route to its most successful era of basketball.
In 2010, the Bobcats won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in 27 seasons, and last year’s run to the Sweet 16 was the first such appearance since 1964. Ohio’s senior class picked up numerous accolades, including winning more games than any other class in program history, both in the regular season (94) and postseason (13).
To honor the past four seasons and the outgoing senior class, I took on the arduous task of selecting the 10 best Ohio basketball games of the last four seasons. I based my rankings off the significance of the game, the atmosphere surrounding the matchup and—of course—the outcome.
3 Games That Missed the Cut
November 25, 2011—Louisville, KY: #7 Louisville 59, Ohio 54
In just their fourth game of the season, the Bobcats faced off against an eventual Final Four team in the seventh-ranked Cardinals and showed that they could play with anyone in the country.
Ohio had Louisville on the ropes, trailing by just a point with 30 seconds to go, before a heavily disputed blocking foul on Walter Offutt helped Louisville escape.
The Bobcats erased a nine-point second half deficit with a remarkable 17-2 run to take a six-point lead on D.J. Cooper’s three-point play with 3:55 remaining. But as any great team does, Louisville responded to take a four-point lead before a deep three from Cooper brought Ohio to within a point, 55-54 with 52 seconds left.
On Louisville’s next possession, star guard Peyton Siva drove the lane and powered into Offutt, who was called for his fifth foul. Offutt looked to be set but the call went against the ‘Cats, and Siva knocked down both free throws for a three-point lead. Ohio still had a chance to tie but missed two potential game-tying threes in the final seconds.
Cooper led the way with 16 points (all in the second half) while the bench provided a boost with 29 points, including 10 from freshman back up point guard Stevie Taylor.
Although it was a gutty performance from the young Bobcats, Ohio coach John Groce knew his team had allowed a great opportunity to slip through its hands.
"We didn’t come here for a moral victory. Our guys believed that they could win the game, and then to get into position to win the game and then to not finish was disappointing.”
This attitude, along with his ability to win big games, are just a couple of the reasons why Groce was revered by the Ohio fanbase. Although the loss stung at that time, it set the stage for one of the greatest seasons in Ohio basketball history.
January 21, 2012—Athens, OH: Ohio 69, Miami (OH) 65
Ohio retired the jersey of the best player in program history and outscored their hated rivals 12-2 over the final 3:08 to secure an important win early in conference play.
The only three-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, Gary Trent (1993-1995), affectionately known as “The Shaq of the MAC”, dominated the conference in his three years wearing the green and white. After his number jersey was unveiled from the rafters, Trent concluded his halftime speech by saying Ohio needed to “finish kicking Miami’s ass," firing up the already raucous crowd.
The Bobcats sleepwalked through the first half and found themselves down as many as eight with five minutes to play. But Ohio awoke just in time, as Walter Offutt’s steal and breakaway layup with 1:29 left gave Ohio a one-point lead.
The Bobcats sunk their free throws down the stretch to move to 15-4 on the season.
Ivo Baltic led the way with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting (that’s not a misprint) while Reggie Keely converted three three-point plays in the second half and finished with 11 points.
March 9, 2013—Athens, OH: Ohio 58, Miami (OH) 54
In an eerily similar game to the previous year’s Ohio-Miami matchup, the Bobcats again scrambled back from a second-half deficit to earn a share of the MAC regular-season crown on senior day.
Ohio trailed by as many as 12 in the second half before Stevie Taylor and Jon Smith came off the bench to rescue the Bobcats.
Taylor kick-started the run with a three, then Smith scored four points on one possession to bring the once mellow crowd to a deafening pitch. Taylor added steals on consecutive possessions, finishing with a layup on the first steal and finding D.J. Cooper for the go-ahead three on the second. The Convocation Center erupted in cheer and was as loud as it’s ever been after Cooper’s trey, even with most students still on spring break.
When the run was over, Ohio had scored 15 straight points. Nick Kellogg’s clutch 18-foot jumper at the end of the shot clock sealed the win.
This win was special because it filled the only void on the seniors’ resume: a MAC regular-season title, the programs’ first since 1993-1994.
“I just wanted to send the seniors out on a good note and I wanted the championship so bad,” said Taylor.
10. February 16, 2013: Ohio 78, Kent 75 OT
10. February 16, 2013—Athens, OH: Ohio 78, Kent State 75 OT
When starting point guard D.J. Cooper, the player Ohio had counted on to make the big shots, fouled out with 32 seconds remaining in overtime, Ohio coach Jim Christian was forced to insert Cooper’s energetic backup Stevie Taylor.
With the Bobcats trailing 75-73, Christian drew up a play for senior guard Walter Offutt. Taylor, who had played just six minutes prior to re-entering the game, initiated the offense and stood on the right wing waiting for the play to develop. Offutt initially fumbled Ivo Baltic’s low bounce pass and his defender, Chris Evans, dropped to the floor to try to steal the ball. But Offutt corralled the rock, leaving Evans behind and drove down the right side of the lane.
With Evans beaten, Taylor’s defender sagged into the paint to try to cut Offutt off. Offutt spotted Taylor, who was sliding towards the corner in front of the OZone, and kicked it to the wide-open sophomore guard. Taylor, who was 12-for-30 (40 percent) from three-point range at the time, caught the ball in rhythm and hit nothing but nylon with 13.5 seconds remaining to put Ohio ahead by one.
The Golden Flashes had a chance to win the game, but a steal from Offutt led to a breakaway layup by Nick Kellogg. Randal Holt’s desperation 30-foot three fell short as the buzzer sounded.
In an instance, Taylor was picked up by Reggie Keely and swarmed by his teammates and fans in front of the Marching 110. Seconds later, he was hoisted into the air on the shoulders of his teammates and enthusiastically saluted “Bobcat Nation.”
It was the biggest shot of the season for the Bobcats. It was also the biggest shot of Taylor’s basketball career.
“Walt (Offutt) told me to circle up and he kicked it and I just hit a good shot,” said Taylor, generously listed at 5-foot-10-inches.
The win gave Ohio a 10-1 conference record and kept them a game behind league-leading Akron, which turned out to be the difference later in the season when the Zips stumbled down the stretch, resulting in a two-way tie for the MAC Regular Season Title (Ohio’s first since 1993-1994).
9. March 1, 2011: Ohio 80, Akron 55
9. March 1, 2011—Athens, OH: Ohio 80, Akron 55
The “Green Fever” games at the Convocation Center between Ohio and Akron have become a staple late in the season, but it all started with the third annual “Green Fever” game on senior night against the Zips.
A few days before the game, Akron head coach Keith Dambrot provided bulletin board material for John Groce’s squad when he blasted Ohio’s ability to sustain leads.
“They are good for four minutes and then they are the worst team in America for the next four minutes,” said Dambrot.
The comments had the fans and players fired up, and that motivation carried over to the hardwood.
After a see-saw opening 10 minutes, Ohio took control. They shot 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) from the floor in the half, drained five three-pointers (four from D.J. Cooper) and ended the half on a 26-4 run to take a 44-22 lead into halftime.
Cooper continued his scorching hot shooting in the second half, at one point hitting three consecutive treys from NBA range over the course of 97 seconds, as Ohio’s lead ballooned to 30 several times. Cooper finished with a near triple-double of 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, connecting on a career-high seven threes to help the Bobcats demolish the Zips 80-55.
After the game, Dambrot admitted, “We kind of just lost our cookies all at once and then never could recover. They manhandled us in all areas.”
8. March 11, 2010: Ohio 81, Kent State 64
8. March 11, 2010—Cleveland, OH: Ohio 81, Kent State 64
*2010 Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals
After traveling to Muncie, Indiana to defeat Ball State in overtime of the opening round of the Mid-American Conference tournament, Ohio faced the daunting task of playing Kent State, the conference’s regular season champions.
The Bobcats had held leads in the last five minutes in each of the teams’ two regular season meetings but fell by two points at home and by seven on the road in mid-February.
It was my freshman year, and seeing as I had never been to the MAC Tournament, I convinced three friends to travel down to Cleveland with me for the 9:30 p.m. start to support our Bobcats.
We stood across from the Ohio bench in the first row, spelling out O-H-I-O on our chests in green and white paint and screamed our heads off from start to finish.
Anyway, the ninth-seeded Bobcats, who went 7-9 in MAC play, were undeterred, even after freshman guard D.J. Cooper picked up his second foul just over three minutes into the game.
With Cooper forced to sit for the rest of the half, shooting guard Armon Bassett took over the ball-handling duties and the Bobcats found their comfort zone. The Terre Haute native responded with one of the best performances in MAC Tournament history.
With the score tied at eight following the first television timeout, Ohio went on a 13-2 run sparked by 11 points from Bassett and saw its lead bulge to 16 at the break (40-24). Bassett used his entire offensive repertoire to score 18 first-half points and add five assists.
The Golden Flashes quickly narrowed the deficit to three (49-46) with 10:39 to play, but Bassett’s ability to break down Kent’s defenders and get to the line helped the Bobcats maintain control.
Following a Reggie Keely free throw, Bassett scored Ohio’s next 12 points in less than three minutes to extend the lead to 14 (62-48). Kent State never came closer than six points the rest of the way. Bassett poured in 38 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 from deep, and knocked down all 16 of his free throws. He also dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds. DeVaughn Washington added 19 points on a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor, dazzling with an array of highlight reel dunks to go along with eight rebounds.
Ohio’s win was even more impressive when you consider Cooper played a season-low 21 minutes and tied his season-low with two points and two assists.
“Once Armon made a couple shots and really started feeling more confident, it just became one of those nights,” said Ohio head coach John Groce. “I’ve been coaching a long time. That’s certainly one of the most dynamic performances that I’ve been a part of.”
The performance set the stage for one of the most shocking runs in Ohio basketball postseason history.
7. March 18, 2012: (13) Ohio 62, (12) South Florida 56
7. March 18, 2012—Nashville, TN: (13) Ohio 62, (12) South Florida 56
**2012 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Third Round
After taking down Michigan in its first game of the tournament, 13th-seeded Ohio faced off against one of the best defenses in the country, the 12th-seeded South Florida Bulls.
The Bobcats trailed by six (27-21) at the half, but Walter Offutt scored eight quick points in the first four minutes and six seconds of the second half to bring the Bobcats even.
A few minutes later, Ohio trailed by five, but South Florida’s Jawanza Poland was given a technical after hanging on the rim following a dunk. The game changed on that one play, as Nick Kellogg sank both free throws and knocked down a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 42 with 9:23 to play.
Two minutes later, the Bobcats scored 10 straight points, triggered by consecutive threes from Offutt and Kellogg to give them an eight-point lead with 3:28 remaining. Cooper made three free throws down the stretch to hold off the Bulls en route to a 62-56 victory and the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1964.
Offutt finished with a game-high 21 points and four steals, shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. Cooper added 19 points, seven assists and a team leading six rebounds, giving the Bobcats their third NCAA Tournament win in three seasons.
“I do think our guys have a chip on their shoulder,” said John Groce after the game. “I think our guys look forward to playing on the big stage against quality competition.”
After the game, CBS’s cameras caught a glimpse of the Bobcats locker room, which included a tearful Groce and perhaps the greatest locker room speech by a university president (above).
6. February 24, 2010: Ohio 70, Miami (OH) 68
6. February 24, 2010—Athens, OH: Ohio 70, Miami (OH) 68
Meeting 185 between these two bitter rivals was an instant classic.
Ohio trailed 64-59 with 1:53 remaining but used a 6-2 spurt to climb within a point on a layup from DeVaughn Washington.
Trailing 66-65 with 29 seconds left, Armon Bassett poked the ball away from Miami’s Rodney Haddix II in the backcourt, allowing Washington to scoop up the loose ball and draw a foul on his layup attempt. Washington then calmly sank both free throws to give Ohio the lead with 22 seconds to play.
Miami’s coach Charlie Coles decided not to call timeout on the ensuing possession and put the ball in the hands of senior point guard Kenny Hayes. With the shot clock turned off, Miami had the opportunity to take the last shot, but instead Hayes elected to attack with 11 seconds remaining. He slid by Bassett on a drive to the left and made an off-balance right-hand runner in the lane with eight seconds to go, giving Miami a 68-67 lead.
Bassett quickly inbounded the ball to D.J. Cooper, who raced down the left side, drawing three Miami defenders. Cooper stopped on a dime outside the three-point arc and bulleted an overhead pass across the court to Tommy Freeman on the right wing.
The junior sniper gave a quick look at the rim as a defender flew by him, stepped behind a pick from Kenneth van Kempen, and nailed the go-ahead three-pointer over the outstretched arms of two defenders with 0.6 seconds left.
Freeman raised his arms and bounced up and down, as Miami’s desperation heave sailed wide. Washington and van Kempen embraced the hero, who still had his hands pointed skyward, and the three were quickly engulfed near center court by teammates as the O Zone (which of course included my crazy friends and I) stormed the court in celebration.
Afterwards, Freeman described his thought-process as the final play developed.
When Hayes hit the runner to put them up, I knew my job was just to run to the corner. By the time I got there D.J. (Cooper) was already pushing it, and I saw that he got doubled on the opposite side of the floor. For him to kick it over to me is just him having vision. For a freshman, I know that's sometimes hard for young guys to do. When I got it, there were guys there and I shot-faked. I honestly didn't know how much time there was on the clock but just knew I had to take the shot, and I just tried to slow it down as much as I could. K.V.K. (van Kempen) took some guys out, and I was able to squeeze it off. Honestly, I thought it was off when I let it go, but I'm glad I was wrong.
Freeman finished with 19 points (15 in the second half) on 6-of-8 shooting from long range, while Washington led the way with a season-high 25 points.
The win was one of Ohio’s three victories in its final four regular season games, before it kicked off its improbable run through the Mid-American Conference tournament and into the NCAA tournament.
5. March 23, 2012: (1) North Carolina 73, (13) Ohio 65 OT
5. March 23, 2012—St. Louis, MO: (1) North Carolina 73, (13) Ohio 65 Overtime
**NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Semifinals
Before the game, few gave the Bobcats a chance even as the Tar Heels were without starting point guard Kendall Marshall, who had broken his wrist in North Carolina’s win over Creighton five days earlier.
But all season, the Bobcats believed they could compete with anyone and led by head coach John Groce, prepared to win as usual.
However, the Tar Heels jumped out to a 26-11 lead behind its two frontcourt stars and soon-to-be first round picks, Tyler Zeller and John Henson. The duo combined to score 16 of Carolina’s first 26 points and was no match for the undersized Bobcats.
North Carolina used their superior size and athleticism to destroy Ohio on the boards, holding a mammoth 56-26 rebounding advantage for the game.
But Ohio wasn’t intimidated and ended the half on an 11-3 run with two threes from Nick Kellogg to climb to within seven (29-22) heading into the locker room.
The Bobcats continued to use the three-point shot (while forcing 24 North Carolina turnovers) to offset their rebounding deficiencies. Ohio knocked down treys on three consecutive possessions including two from Walter Offutt, to cut the deficit to one (37-36) with 15:05 remaining in the second half.
As the Bobcats made their run, the crowd (full of Kansas and North Carolina State fans waiting for the next game) began to back the underdog Bobcats. The extra fan support helped re-energize Ohio and gave them a much-needed boost.
Trailing 46-41, D.J. Cooper, who had the worst shooting performance (3-of-20) of his brilliant career, splashed home a corner three and Kellogg added his fourth triple of the night from the wing to give the Bobcats their first lead of the game, setting up a wild finish. No team led by more than four points over the final 8:31 of regulation and there were six ties.
North Carolina quickly regained the lead but Ohio counter-punched with a 10-2 push spearheaded by Cooper’s three-point play to gain a 57-53 lead with 3:49 remaining. Ohio seemed to have the magic and momentum it needed to pull of the historic upset (no team seeded 12th or lower had ever knocked off No. 1 seed) but an enormous offensive rebound of a missed free throw led to a Harrison Barnes game-tying triple from the top of the key. The teams traded baskets down the stretch as North Carolina took a two-point edge on a three from Reggie Bullock with 42 seconds remaining.
With the game on the line, Offutt bullied Stilman White to the cup, made the layup and drew the foul with 25 seconds left. Offutt squandered the opportunity to give Ohio the lead by missing the free throw, giving the Tar Heels a chance to win the game on their final possession.
With Offutt guarding him, Barnes drove to his left and pulled-up for a short jumper, but lost the ball on his way up. Offutt swatted the ball towards the perimeter where Cooper grabbed it, took one dribble and launched a half-court shot that glanced off the rim and backboard as the horn sounded.
“I thought it was good when he let it go,” said Groce of Cooper’s last second heave. “At the end of shootarounds, he always practices half-court shots. If there’s anyone you’d want taking a half-court shot, it’s him.”
In the extra period, the Bobcats ran out of gas, and missed all six of their shot attempts. Their unlikely run come to a heartbreaking end with a 73-65 loss.
Offutt scored a career-high 26 points, 18 of them from long range. Most notably, he played tremendous defense on Barnes despite giving up four inches. He limited Barnes, the seventh overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft, to just 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting and five turnovers.
Zeller finished with 20 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks and was one of three Tar Heels to record double-doubles.
After the game, Offutt was distraught about his missed free throw at the end of regulation that would have given Ohio a one-point lead.
“One free throw away,” he said. “As a leader on this team, I take responsibility that I’ve got to hit that free throw…It just feels terrible to kind of let my team down in that sort of way.”
I wanted to put this performance higher because I think it is the one Ohio basketball game that even the casual sports fan remembers, but since it ended in a loss, I could not raise it above some of the other accomplishments the program achieved over the past four seasons.
Here are the highlights from the game.
4. March 10, 2012: Ohio 64, Akron 63
4. March 10, 2012—Cleveland, OH: Ohio 64, Akron 63
**2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship
After a hotly contested first half that had the Zips leading 29-28, the second half was one for the ages.
Trailing 35-31 early in the second half, Ohio went on a 10-0 run over a five-minute span to take a 41-35 lead, a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Akron closed to within one (51-50) on a three-pointer from Alex Abreu, but D.J. Cooper responded with a personal 8-2 run to put the Bobcats back in control.
Cooper sank a corner three, made a difficult driving layup and then drained one of the biggest shots of his career for a 59-52 lead with 4:21 remaining.
With the shot clock winding down, Akron forward Nikola Cvetinovic switched onto Cooper outside the three-point line. Cooper pump-faked, leaned into Cvetinovic and threw up a 26-foot prayer at the horn that somehow fell through the net, sending the Ohio section of the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena into a frenzy. Cvetinovic threw his arms up in disbelief while Cooper stared at his team’s bench in defiance.
On Ohio’s next possession, Cooper found Ivo Baltic for a corner three-ball to boost the lead to 62-54. However, the Zips would not go quietly, using a 7-0 spurt to climb within a point with 1:43 remaining.
Akron eventually had a chance to take the lead, but Brian Walsh’s pull-up jumper rimmed out and Reggie Keely grabbed the rebound before being fouled with six seconds to play.
Keely, a career 62.5 percent free-throw shooter who was just 2-of-4 from the line in the game to that point, made the front-end of the one-and-one, then rattled home the second to give Ohio a 64-61 lead.
After a timeout, Bobcat head coach John Groce elected to have his team foul the Zips before they could get off a potential game-tying three. Cooper obliged by fouling Abreu as he crossed mid-court with 3.1 seconds left, sending the sophomore guard to the line.
Abreu made the first and tried to miss the second in hopes of a possible tip-in. He shot put the ball high into the air and watched as the ball caromed off the back rim onto the front rim, then leapt to the back rim before sliding through the net.
Keely and Akron’s 7-foot center Zeke Marshall both nearly got hands on the ball, and there was much confusion as to whether the ball was touched. However, after a lengthy video review, officials determined the free throw had drooped in on its own accord, allowing Ohio to keep a one-point lead.
Cooper was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play with two seconds left. He misfired on the first free-throw attempt and then, after looking to the bench, intentionally missed the second, forcing Akron’s Quincy Diggs to fire a desperation shot from three-quarters court that wasn’t close.
Cooper was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and carried the load offensively, recording 23 points, six assists and four steals (no other Bobcat scored in double digits). He was 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-9 from long range.
The performance was just another in a long list of clutch acts from the junior guard, who received high praise after the game from Akron coach Keith Dambrot.
“He does a lot of things you can’t teach. That’s what separates the great players from the good players.”
3. March 13, 2010: Ohio 81, Akron 75 OT
3. March 13, 2010–Cleveland, OH: Ohio 81, Akron 75 OT
**2010 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship
This was another classic MAC Championship matchup.
The game featured 13 ties, 24 lead changes, numerous crucial plays and even an extra five minutes of heart-pounding action.
Backed by four first-half threes and a buzzer-beating layup from freshman sensation D.J. Cooper, ninth-seeded Ohio took a 36-34 lead into halftime over third-seeded Akron.
The game went back and forth with neither team leading by more than five points until Ohio’s Kenneth van Kempen drained two free throws to give the Bobcats a 65-59 lead with 2:37 remaining.
But Akron answered.
Junior guard Darryl Roberts scored six-straight points, sandwiched around an Armon Bassett free throw to bring the Zips to within 66-65 with 54 seconds left, setting up a chaotic final minute.
Bassett lost the ball with 24 seconds remaining, but Chris McKnight’s go-ahead layup attempt was blocked by Ohio’s DeVaughn Washington.
Then came a rash of three-consecutive turnovers, two by the Zips, which gave Ohio the ball with 13 seconds remaining. Bassett calmly converted two free throws for a 68-65 lead. But Akron guard Steve McNees drilled the game-tying trey from the top of the key with six seconds to play.
Ohio called time, and coach John Groce put the ball in the hands of Cooper. He raced up the court and had a decent look from 12 feet, but his jumper was long and the game went to overtime.
According to Cooper, Groce’s message before the extra five minutes was, “Don’t flinch.”
The MAC Freshman of the Year obliged, knocking down a three-pointer to put Ohio ahead 73-70.
But McNees kept firing and re-tied the game at 75 with his fourth triple of the game.
Bassett responded by kissing a short jumper off the glass with 1:08 to play, and Cooper sank two clutch free throws for a 79-75 lead with 24 seconds left.
McNees and McKnight missed consecutive threes, and then Cooper rebounded the miss and lobbed a pass ahead to a streaking Bassett for a two-hand slam, securing Ohio’s first MAC Tournament Championship title since 2005.
Along with van Kempen, Ohio’s guard tandem played the entire game. Bassett (25 points) and Cooper (23 points) combined for 48 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven three-pointers. Bassett was named tournament MVP after averaging 29 points in four games. His 116 points and 49 free throws set a MAC tournament record.
Cooper and Bassett received high praise from McKnight after the game.
“They’re unbelievable,” he said. “You can’t give them any space or the ball is going up. And if it’s going up, it’s going in.”
I have this game rated slightly ahead of Ohio’s 2012 MAC Championship (above) because the Bobcats came out of nowhere to win this tournament. They were 7-9 in MAC play and barely even made it to Cleveland. Ohio rallied from a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes to play at Ball State in the tournament’s opening round, eventually winning in overtime just to earn a trip to Cleveland.
They then stunned Kent State, the league’s regular season champion, shut down fourth-seeded Miami (OH) in the semis and outlasted the Zips in the final.
Ohio also overcame an extreme amount of adversity during the season.
Steven Coleman, the team’s top returning scorer, played just 10 games before breaking his hand and never played again. Washington was suspended for five games midseason for violating team rules, while highly touted freshman James Kinney was kicked off the team at the beginning of February.
“We went through a lot of stuff this year and we all stayed together,” said Bassett. “A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel, but we kept working hard. All 12 guys came to practice with their hard hats on.”
The win put the Bobcats in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 (where they nearly knocked off Florida).
2. March 16, 2012: (13) Ohio 65, (4) Michigan 60
2. March 16, 2012--Nashville, TN: (13) Ohio 65, (4) Michigan 60
**2012 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Second Round
When Greg Gumbel announced Ohio would be facing Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, the Bobcats watch party erupted with excitement. Most people in Ohio strongly dislike the state of Michigan for obvious reasons, but the game carried some extra sauce thanks to comments from first-year Michigan football coach Brady Hoke.
Hoke aggravated many Ohio State fans during the football season when he continually referred to the Buckeyes as “Ohio." Michigan basketball coach John Beilein continued the trend along with others in the university, leading to frustration in both Columbus and Athens.
Even Ohio coach John Groce weighed in, calling the comments "disrespectful" in a story from February.
Although the team downplayed the comments heading into the contest, many Bobcat fans found them demeaning, which only added fuel to the fire.
Ohio was picked by some 'experts' as a possible Cinderella team, having played Louisville down to the wire earlier in the season and accumulating a program record 27 wins to just seven loses.
Michigan was also seen as a good matchup for the Bobcats because the Wolverines didn’t have great size and relied on the three-point ball to carry them. The Bobcats ranked 13th in the nation in three-point defense and because of the favorable matchup were just a six-point underdog against the co-Big Ten regular season champions.
The Bobcats played well from the start, leading 24-22 with less than six minutes to play in the half before using an 11-0 run to create some distance from the Wolverines. Nick Kellogg drained two threes during Ohio’s run before Trey Burke’s steal and layup with 2:17 left ended the scoring drought for Michigan. Ohio took a 35-29 halftime lead led by D.J. Cooper’s 13-point half.
The Wolverines were able to make it a one-possession game five times during the second half, but each time the Bobcats had an answer. Evan Smotrycz’s three-pointer brought Michigan within two, 42-40, but Walter Offutt scored a layup and Reggie Keely converted two free throws to extend the lead to six.
After the teams traded baskets for a few more possessions, Offutt knocked down a jumper to spark a 9-3 Ohio run for a 57-48 lead with 8:51 to play.
Burke brought Michigan to within three with a triple but Offutt restored a six-point lead with a free throw and layup.
Burke countered with another three with 4:12 left, but the Wolverines went scoreless for the rest of the game. They missed four consecutive potential game-tying threes, three by Burke, before Smotrycz inexplicably lost control of the ball with seven seconds remaining. Offutt pounced on the loose ball and clinched the upset with two free throws.
Cooper outshined Big Ten freshman of the year Trey Burke on both ends of the floor, playing with great efficiency, poise and confidence. He scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-6 from long range. Offutt added nine of his 11 points in the final 15 minutes while Baltic and Reggie Keely chipped in 10 points apiece.
Burke and star guard Tim Hardaway Jr. were held to a measly 10-of-29 from the field and 4-of-15 from downtown.
"I thought our ability to defend the 3 was going to be critical coming into the game," said Ohio coach John Groce after the game. "We changed up our coverages during the game…I'll be honest with you, over the course of 40 minutes, I don't know if we busted a coverage one time."
Here are the game highlights.
1. March 18, 2010: (14) Ohio 97, (3) Georgetown 83
1. March 18, 2010--Providence, RI: (14) Ohio 97, (3) Georgetown 83
**2010 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional First Round
The outside world looked at the unheralded Bobcats as an afterthought coming into this matchup with the mighty Hoyas. But as coach John Groce said throughout his four-year tenure and known inside the locker room walls, Ohio expected to play well.
They didn't just play well. They spanked Georgetown from start to finish to pick up the programs' first NCAA tournament victory since 1983, when Robert Tatum's improbable last-second buzzer-beater somehow fell through the net.
The Bobcats showed no fear from the start as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead before the Hoyas even knew what hit them.
Freshman Reggie Keely's soft hook over future NBA baller Greg Monroe tied the score at 15 and let the Hoyas know that the Bobcats were not afraid to attack the bigger, stronger Hoyas.
Then came the three-point onslaught. Trailing 20-18 the Bobcats used six triples over the final 10 minutes of the half to open up a double-digit lead.
Freshman D.J. Cooper ignited the run with a deep three from the left wing to beat the shot clock, Kenneth van Kempen followed with his signature doctor-midrange jumper and Tommy Freeman splashed home a trey of his own from the corner for a 25-18 lead.
Cooper knocked down his second triple and a few minutes later, Armon Bassett drained consecutive threes to give Ohio a 39-26 lead. Junior guard Tommy Freeman completed the run with yet another three to put the Bobcats up by 15. Ohio shot 8-of-16 from downtown in the first half to take a surprising 48-36 advantage at halftime.
However the signature play of the game was Cooper's deft theft and alley-oop lob to a trailing DeVaughn Washington that really had the 'house' behind the underdogs. We didn't realize it at the time, but the play showed off Cooper's abilities nicely as he flashed his quick hands, gifted vision, unselfishness and wondrous passing ability.
The Bobcats grabbed a 19-point lead (63-44) before the Hoyas finally mounted a comeback. Georgetown used a 12-3 run to climb within seven (79-72) with six minutes to play.
With the game on the line, the 150-pound Cooper made a name for himself. He scored 11 straight points for the Bobcats, singlehandedly keeping the Hoyas at bay. He answered every Hoya basket with one his own, and his three from the corner and ensuing driving layup proved to be the knockout blows.
Ohio made 11 of its 12 free throws in the final three minutes to close out the bewildered Hoyas en route to a stunning 97-83 win. The 14-point margin of victory was the largest for a 14-seed over a 3-seed in tournament history, and the Bobcats became just the third 14-seed to win a first round game since 1999.
Bassett (32 points) and Cooper (23 points) were sensational, combining for 55 points and 10 three-pointers (five apiece). Washington added 12 points and 10 boards ,while Freeman chipped in with 11 points on a tidy 4-0f-5 from the field. Ohio shot 58.2 percent from the floor (32-55) and a ridiculous 56.5 percent from beyond the arc (13-23).
Afterwards Groce talked about the unbelievable offensive performance.
We've got a lot of confidence in our offense. Guys have been making plays here the last couple of weeks of the season. And spacing is important to us in our offense. I felt like we had the floor space. Fortunately for us we were able to make some shots, and when you make some shots it extends the defense more. When that happened we were able to drive a bit and create some other opportunities for other guys other than just D.J. and Armon. I thought those two things, our perimeter shooting game and our ability to dribble drive the ball to the lane really complimented each other well.
This is the best win of this unbelievably successful era of Ohio hoops because the Bobcats came out of nowhere to shock the college basketball world. Nobody gave them a chance, yet they played with no fear and had fun doing it.
"I try to tell my teammates, we may not be a better team, just got to be a better team on a given night. That's going to be a mindset going in, we've got to be a better team for that particular game," said Bassett in the post game press conference.
The win not only showcased Ohio basketball, but also put Ohio University on the map and therefore, it is the clear-cut most significant game of the past four years.
Here are the Game Highlights along with a post game interview of Groce and Bassett (above).