Ohio Basketball: The 10 most significant games of the past four years (No. 2 and 1)

*Editor’s Note* This is the final post of six, on Ohio basketball’s most significant games of the past four years. Here is the parent post along with games No. 10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4 and 3.

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 the program record 27 wins the Bobcats had accumulated that season. Michigan was also seen as a good matchup for the Bobcats. 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 3-point defense and 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 that 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 it would be the last time the Wolverines scored. Michigan missed four consecutive potential game-tying threes, three of them 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 outplayed Burke, the Big 10 Freshman of the year, 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.

Afterwards, students piled onto Court Street to celebrate the victory, chanting for over 30 minutes.

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 reiterated throughout his four-year tenure, Ohio expected to play well.

They didn’t just play well, they 14 seeded Bobcats spanked Georgetown from start to finish to pick up the programs’ first NCAA Tournament victory since Robert Tatum’s improbable last-second buzzer-beater somehow fell through the net way back in 1983.

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.

A three-point onslaught followed. Trailing 18-17, the Bobcats used six triples over the final 10 minutes of the half to open up a double-digit lead.

Then just a 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. Freeman completed the run with yet another three to put the 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.

Perhaps the signature play of the game however, was Cooper’s deft theft and alley-oop lob to a trailing DeVaughn Washington that really had the ‘house’ behind the underdogs.

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 below.

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