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Ohio Bobcats NCAA Tournament Recap
The experts picked against them. 97.6% of Yahoo bracket users picked against them. Even many of their fans and students didn’t believe it was possible.
But they did it. On this Friday, people will be taking about the Ohio Bobcats, Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper. Athens, Ohio is on the college basketball map today. Pictures of DeVaughn Washington and Bassett and Cooper are plastered on website homepages. The Mid-American Conference can boast the first day’s biggest upset…and one of the bigger ones in years.
The 14th seeded Bobcats defeated the heavy favorite, 3rd seeded Georgetown, 97-83. They didn’t just win this game though; they dominated it. That is something a 14-seed just doesn’t do too much in the NCAA Tournament.
14-seeds had prevailed over 3-seeds just fifteen times in Tournament history. The last time it happened was in 2006 when Northwestern State sunk a buzzer-beater to stun Iowa. Now, Ohio is the 16th to pull the feat; and it did so in commanding fashion. The 14-point margin of victory was the largest ever for a 14 over a 3.
Tommy Freeman scored the game’s first points with a three. That set the tone. Ohio only trailed the Big East Tournament runner-up, the Georgetown Hoyas, for 18 seconds, by two, early in the first half. This is the same Bobcats team that lost to Pittsburgh 74-49 in December. That went 7-9 in the MAC. That slid by Ball State in overtime of the MAC Tournament’s first round.
Or is it really the same team?
In the past five games, Ohio has looked like a team on a mission, steamrolling to 20 plus wins and beating teams they’re “not supposed to.” Armon Bassett has looked like a man possessed and picked up in Providence right where he left off in Cleveland.
Bassett led the Bobcats with 32 points Thursday night. D.J. Cooper was quite the wingman with 23 points on top of eight assists, hitting threes whenever it looked as if Georgetown might be getting a gasp of momentum. On the night, Ohio shot absolutely lights out. It made 13 of 23 three-point shots, 56% from downtown. Overall, the team hit 58% of its field goals, well above its season average of 42%.
Bassett and Cooper did score more than half of Ohio’s 97 points but they got some help from role players too. DeVaughn Washington put up a double-double. Tommy Freeman was 3 of 4 from three.
While the Bobcats played their best game of the season, the same could not be said for Georgetown. Though the Hoyas nearly doubled Ohio’s scoring in the paint, they could not contain the Bobcat guards. Bassett and Cooper combined to make more jumpers themselves than the entire Georgetown team. The defense looked lackadaisical at times, allowing a season-high in three-pointers. It had to be one of Georgetown’s worst defensive performances of the season. The Hoyas also shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, 18 to Ohio’s 11.
The most surprising part, the one that is still hard to believe, is that it was the 14-seed mid-major underdog that controlled the game. The Bobcats pushed the tempo and outpaced the Hoyas in the high scoring affair. They led by 12 at halftime and by as many as 19 in the second half. When Georgetown started to make a run, cutting the deficit to seven late in the game, Ohio had the answer.
The Bobcats had the answer all night. While Greg Monroe and Chris Wright had big statistical nights, Austin Freeman was held to just nine points. And even with Monroe, Wright, and Hollis Thompson piling up double-digit points, Georgetown’s defense was so weak that it didn’t matter.
Cinderella stories are a strange thing. They often come from the most unforeseen places. This time it resides in a small college town, with a team that has had to overcome injuries, suspensions and inexperience.
When penciling in the brackets, Ohio was an afterthought in the stacked Midwest region. Well, the Bobcats are not an afterthought anymore; not to Georgetown players or fans, not to the 97% of people who thought this 14-seed had no chance. This time, Cinderella wasn’t just happy to be at the dance; it showed up all the popular kids.
By Connor Kiesel