Maurice N’dour scored a season-high 31 points on Saturday, but his last two may have been the most important of Ohio’s season thus far. The Senegalese senior’s slam dunk with 0.6 seconds remaining gave the Bobcats a 63-61 victory over the Buffalo Bulls (12-6, 3-3 MAC).
With 2.9 seconds left in regulation, N’dour caught a pass quarterbacked by Tony Campbell at the top of the three point arc, turned and saw his defender anticipate a pass to Bean Willis in the corner.
“I knew my guy would gamble, so I just faked the pass and went to the basket,” N’dour said. “It was a great pass from ‘Ton; perfect play.”
“That play is going to overshadow a lot of the scrappy play that got us to that point,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said.
Ohio (7-10, 2-4 MAC) trailed by seven late in the second half, but battled back with lockdown defense, highlighted by two N’dour blocks. The Green & White took a three point lead with under a minute remaining, but an open three from Jarryn Skeete evened the game at 61 with 38 seconds on the clock.
N’dour made 10 of his 15 shot attempts and sank all 10 of his free throws. The forward added six boards in his standout performance. N’dour scored Ohio’s final 10 points en route to the victory.
Aside from N’dour, Ryan Taylor was the only other Bobcat in double figures with 12 points.
Justin Moss and Xavier Ford led the Bulls with 11 points each. Moss also pulled down seven rebounds.
Buffalo struggled from the field and shot just 36 percent, 31 percent in the second half. Ohio wasn’t much better at 41.5 percent. The Bulls outrebounded the Bobcats 45-30, but the large margin didn’t factor in the game’s outcome.
When Ohio took the lead with N’dour’s late dunk, Saul Phillips was visibly triumphant and unleashed a fist pump that would make Tiger Woods envious. Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley was none too pleased about Phillips’ emoting.
“I was disappointed with the unprofessionalism of the Ohio coach and how far he was allowed to come onto the floor at the end of the game while there was still time on the clock,” Hurley said. “But the referees did not do anything with that. That shouldn’t happen.
“It’s something, there’s rules in place for a reason. You’re not, as a coach, allowed to be out on the floor as we’re trying to finish the game.”
Phillips, a man who is far from stoic, responded to Hurley’s accusations.
“I gave a fist pump,” Phillips said. “I gave one fist pump, and it was a pretty big one.
“Part of me is like ‘I used to watch you play at Duke.’ If you take me back to college as I’m sitting in my dorm room watching Bobby Hurley play, You fast forward to now and he’s yelling at me. Kind of cool, deep down.
“I apologize to him, apologize to their team, and I’m extremely excited we got the win. All you can do is say you’re sorry.
“You can’t un-fist pump a fist pump.”
After starting conference play 0-4, Ohio has won two straight and this victory came in the most dramatic of fashions. It’s easy to see why Phillips was ecstatic.