Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship Game
(3) Ohio 64 (1) Akron 63
It was a classic battle, a battle of champions, on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Two Ohio-based teams with a lot of enmity toward each other waged a spirited and fiercely-contested war for the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. When it was all said and done, the 2010 tournament champion of the MAC defeated the defending tournament titleholder, creating a lasting March Madness memory in the town of Athens, Ohio.
In the 2010 college basketball season, the Ohio Bobcats won the MAC and then stunned third-seeded Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats ran up and down the floor to leave slower and more lead-footed opponents in the dust. In this game against the Akron Zips - the regular-season champions of the MAC - Ohio had to play at a far slower pace, but coach John Groce's club was up to the task in a dramatic duel that captivated the Cleveland crowd.
With 3:32 left, it seemed that Ohio was going to pull away. The Bobcats took their largest lead of the second half, at 62-54, on a three-point shot by Ivo Baltic. However, Akron - the top seed and the wearer of the crown in the MAC - did not give up its throne very easily. Two foul shots by Alex Abreu, a three by Quincy Diggs, and a layup by Zeke Marshall cut the Ohio lead to 62-61 at the 1:43 mark. Akron's defense shut out Ohio for 3:25, earning multiple chances to take the lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation.
However, Ohio stood its ground. The Bobcats forced an Akron turnover with 1:04 left to preserve their lead. Then, with 13 seconds left, Akron's Brian Walsh had a chance to win the game for the Zips, but his jump shot missed the mark. Ohio's Reggie Keely snapped down the biggest defensive rebound of his and his team's season, and Keely then made the two biggest foul shots of the year for the Bobcats with seven seconds left. Akron, down 64-61, needed a three to tie. Groce then ordered his team to foul, and when D.J. Cooper fouled Abreu with three seconds left, the Bobcats had executed their coach's plan to perfection. Abreu hit both foul shots, as the Zips tried to squeeze out one more possession instead of missing the second foul shot. Cooper missed both foul shots for Ohio with two seconds left, but Akron wasn't able to get a shot off in time from the other end of the court. The Bobcats held on at the end of a significant struggle, punching their ticket to the Big Dance, where they will try to make more noise as a low seed. Ohio beat Georgetown in 2010 as a No. 14 seed; the Bobcats can only hope that they'll get another upset to add to their March Madness collection.