MEN'S BASKETBALL: Bassett leads Bobcats to MAC Championship Game
Ohio's tournament run began with upset at Ball State
CLEVELAND— Ohio University continued its hot streak Friday night, upsetting archrival Miami University 54-42 to reach the championship game.
Ninth-seeded Ohio began their tournament run with a comeback win at Ball State University on Sunday. Now, the Bobcats are the lowest-seeded team to reach the MAC Tournament Championship Game since 2000. In the tournament's first year in Cleveland, No. 9 Miami lost to Ball State 61-58.
Ohio has been led by shooting guard Armon Bassett, who scored a game-high 28 Friday. He broke the tournament record for points, reaching 91 in three games. The previous record was 89 points, held by former Eastern Michigan University guard Earl Boykins.
"This is really just a continuation of what I've been trying to do all year," Bassett said. "I'm trying to turn it up a couple notches because of where we are and do whatever it takes to get to The Dance."
Bassett and the Bobcats are just a win away from their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. Forward DeVaughn Washington is happy they will get to play the defending-champion University of Akron. The Zips advanced in the tournament with a 66-64 win against Western Michigan University.
"We're trying to win our first championship in a few years and to be the champ, you should have to beat the champ," the junior said. "Obviously they're a good team, but if we execute the way we're capable of, I think we have a shot."
The championship game will be played Saturday at 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.
Kool aid: In the final game of David Kool's career, he scored 39 points in the arena LeBron James calls home, and drew comparisons from Cleveland media to the King himself.
But it wasn't enough for Western Michigan, and the last Mid-American Conference West Division team was knocked out of the tournament by Akron.
The end of his college career left Kool crying through the postgame press conference. Coach Steve Hawkins said Kool's emotional display didn't compare to the waterworks of the locker room.
Kool said he was honored to play at Western Michigan.
"With our fans up there supporting us, it was all I could ask for and more," he said. "It's something I will cherish in my heart forever."
Kool's 39 points are the third most in MAC Tournament history, behind Ron Harper's 45 in 1985 and Carlos Medlock's 42 Thursday.
Déjà vu: Forward Chris McKnight scored the game-winning points for Akron on a tip-in with 6.6 seconds left. After the game, he said it felt like the shot he missed at Ball State on Feb. 6.
With the Cardinals and Zips tied at 60, McKnight missed a game-winner in the final 30 seconds in Muncie.
Coach Keith Dambrot remembered the play well.
"I said to him in the locker room, ‘Didn't you have one of those you missed earlier this year?'" Dambrot said.
Then, as Kool raced up the floor for one final shot, McKnight said his mind went back to the 2007 MAC Tournament Championship Game when Akron was upset by Miami. With 0.6 seconds left on the clock Doug Penno banked in a desperation 3-pointer for the conference title.
Kool didn't have Penno's luck however, as his shot clanged off the rim.
East dominance: Western Michigan's loss means the tournament final will once again pit two teams from the East Division.
The University of Toledo is the last team from the West to reach the MAC Tournament Championship game. Toledo lost 71-66 to Kent State University. A West Division team has not won the MAC since 2004 when the Broncos beat the Golden Flashes 77-66.
High expectations: This is the fourth consecutive year that Akron reached the MAC Tournament Championship Game.
The Zips won last year's tournament title, after losing the first three. McKnight said he expected another trip to the finals after deep tournament runs throughout his career.
"Ever since I've been here, we've done that," the senior said. "I wouldn't settle for anything less."