NCAA basketball torunament: Ohio scores another upset, this time vs. Michigan

March 16, 2012

Two years later, Georgetown fans still cringe at the mere mention of one school from the Mid-American Conference: Ohio.

But now those who watched the Bobcats ruin the Hoyas’ season in 2010 can at least share their misery with Michigan, the latest double-digit seed to be toppled by the school from Athens. Two years after Ohio beat third-seeded Georgetown, the 13th-seeded Bobcats defeated the fourth-seeded Wolverines, 65-60, on Friday in a Midwest Region round-of-64 game.

Ohio advanced to play the winner of the game between fifth-seeded Temple and 12th-seeded South Florida in the round of 32 on Sunday.

The 2010 upset marked Ohio’s first tournament victory in 27 years. When the Bobcats walked onto the Bridgestone Arena court Friday night, they not only had a clear memory of that performance, but they still had a diminutive guard who played a key role in the victory.

D.J. Cooper, a 5-foot-11 junior from Chicago, scored 23 points against the Hoyas as a freshman and seemed intent from the game’s start Friday to match that performance.

Cooper, who shoots worse than 35 percent from the field, made 4 of 5 field goal attempts in the first half Friday. He finished with 21 points and five assists.

“That Georgetown game gave us a lot of confidence knowing that we could compete with a high-major team that we see on TV,” Cooper said.

Teammate Nick Kellogg said of Cooper: “He’s been spectacular through the MAC tournament and again today. He’s been on a run. And he’s the head of our monster, who gets it going for us.”

In its first game since suffering a 22-point setback to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, the Wolverines, who rely on hot outside shooting as much as almost any team in the country, seemed overmatched at times.

Crisp ball movement and precision passing enabled the Bobcats to fortify a 13-point advantage late in the first half. The Wolverines rallied in the second half, regaining possession while trailing by three points in the final minute.

But freshman Trey Burke missed a three-pointer from the top of the circle with 40 seconds remaining. Michigan retained possession, but Burke missed another three-pointer from a similar spot.

Ohio last touched the ball before it went out of bounds, giving Michigan one final chance to tie in the final seconds. But Evan Smotrycz lost control of the ball, and Ohio’s Walter Offutt wound up sealing the victory with two free throws.

“It was fitting that we had to rely on our defense at the end,” Ohio Coach John Groce said. “That has been our calling card all season.”

The Bobcats had just two double-digit scorers this season: Cooper and Offutt, who had a relatively quiet scoring night.

Cooper’s long three-pointer to start the game was a harbinger for both teams. Hot shooting and long-range three-point attempts continued for both teams throughout an entertaining first half.

Ohio extended its lead to seven points when Kellogg, the son of former Ohio State standout and current CBS broadcaster Clark Kellogg, swished a three-pointer.

Later in the half, Cooper was fouled on a three-point attempt, and his three free throws gave the Bobcats a 10-point cushion. Kellogg’s 25-foot three-pointer pushed the lead to 13, the largest of the game.

Michigan, which shared the Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 1986, earned its highest NCAA tournament seed since 1998. But in the end. the Wolverines faced the same fate as another high-profile Ohio opponent two years ago.

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