Chris Bryant’s free throws with 1:41 left to play gave Miami its first lead of the game. Jaaron Simmons was having none of that.
Simmons’ go-ahead layup with just over a minute remaining helped earn Ohio its 20th win of the season, 67-65, in thrilling fashion over Miami.
The sophomore point guard scored Ohio’s final five points, despite making just one of his 10 shot attempts to that point. However, the decision to put the ball in his hands when it mattered most was never in question.
“You’ve got no idea the amount of confidence I have in Jaaron,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “He’s a guy that I just know can get it done. I want the ball in my ‘best point guard in the league’s’ hands down the stretch.”
Tony Campbell led Ohio with 25 points and 13 rebounds; his 15th double-double of the season and a performance that just pads his résumé for MAC Player of the Year. Simmons tallied 12 points and eight assists in the victory. Treg Setty added 11 points and seven boards.
Freshman Gavin Block saw added minutes when Kenny Kaminski faced foul trouble and finished with 16 points for the Bobcats. Block was playing so well that Kaminski actually encouraged Phillips to leave Block in the game.
“That shows the leadership and togetherness of our team,” Campbell said. “It’s been there the whole season, but it’s really there now.”
Ohio (20-10, 11-7 MAC) led by as many as 18 in the first half, but Miami worked its way back into the game by forcing 12 Green & White turnovers and scoring 19 points off them.
Geovonie McKnight led the RedHawks (12-19, 6-12 MAC) with 22 points on Senior Night. Miami point guard Eric Washington recorded a double-double of 10 points, 10 assists and three steals.
Following the buzzer, the Bobcats made their way through the visiting Ohio supporters.
“It gave us the chills,” Campbell said. “It felt like we won a championship. I’m anxious to get to Cleveland now.”
Friday night’s MAC faceoff was the 144th installment of the “Battle of the Bricks” on the hardwood. Miami leads the all-time series 77-69.
With the win, the Bobcats earned a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. Ohio will be the No. 2 seed and will play its first game on Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Quicken Loans Arena.