*Editor’s Note* This is the third post of six, on Ohio basketball’s most significant games of the past four years. Come back tomorrow for No. 6 and No. 5. Here is the parent post, which includes three games that did not make the list. Yesterday’s post featured games No. 10 and 9.
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 as 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) and 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 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—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, 13-seeded Ohio faced off against one of the best defenses in the country, the 12-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 his 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.