Ohio bested Miami on the road to earn the No. 2 seed in the MAC tournament and receive a first round bye.
When Ohio jumped ahead by 18 points in the first half against Miami, it was tough to imagine the Bobcats trailing with under a minute to play in regulation.
On a night when Ohio had a shot at clinching the No. 2 seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament, however, Miami didn't allow anything to come easily for the visiting Bobcats.
Ohio (20-10, 11-7 MAC) fought through a Miami second-half rally to come away with a 67-65 road win Friday to close out its regular season. Because of losses by Ball State, Kent State and Central Michigan, Ohio clinched the No. 2 seed in the MAC Tournament.
Ohio will play its first tournament game March 10 in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena against the winner of the No. 7 Northern Illinois versus No. 10 Western Michigan game.
"It’s a really tough group that really doesn’t care who gets it done and really just wants to win for the sake of winning the game,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “There are things this team soaks up so quickly that I do marvel at. ... Smart teams are fun to coach, and I got a smart team."
Ohio got off to a hot start early, making nine of its first 11 shots from the field and building a 28-10 lead about 11 minutes into the game.
The RedHawks (12-19, 6-12 MAC) wouldn’t let the Bobcats get too comfortable though and used the last four minutes of the first half to mount a 14-3 run and to get back within six at the break.
Save for a quick five-point spurt at the beginning, the second half didn’t hold any better luck for Ohio. After shooting 16-of-31 in the first, the Bobcats landed 9-of-27 from the field in the second half, good for just 33 percent.
Miami brought its deficit to 50-47 seven minutes into the second, after Ohio didn’t lead by more than seven at any given time. The RedHawks’ comeback effort continued to be a slow burn, chipping away until they got to send senior Chris Bryant to the free throw line, trailing by one with 1:44 left.
Bryant made both tries to give Miami its first lead of the game.
The lead, however, was short-lived.
Ohio guard Jaaron Simmons made a game-tying free throw just three seconds later and made what turned out to be the game-winning layup with 1:08 remaining.
Miami curiously didn’t foul or call either of its two remaining timeouts as Ohio used the duration of its final possession to take the clock down to less than eight seconds.
The win, on its own, guaranteed Ohio a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament, but the Bobcats clinched the two seed after Western Michigan knocked off MAC West Division co-champions Central Michigan, 91-82.
"It gave me chills,” junior Antonio Campbell said “It felt like we won the championship or something. I’m anxious now. I don’t care when we play, where we play or who we play. I’m just ready to play."
Campbell added yet another double-double to his MAC Player of the Year credentials Friday, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds to lead four Bobcats who scored in double figures. Freshman Gavin Block added 16 points off the bench, while Simmons scored 12 points and had eight assists, and senior Treg Setty finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Senior Geovonie McKnight led Miami with 22 points, while Eric Washington collected 10 points and 10 assists.