Updated Sun, Feb 17, 2013 7:21 pm
Back-up point guard Stevie Taylor played the hero for the Ohio Bobcats, hitting a game-winning three to lift the ‘Cats over the Kent State Golden Flashes 78-75. The win keeps Ohio with just one loss in the Mid-American Conference as the Bobcats climb to 18-7 overall and 10-1 in the conference. Kent State falls to 14-12 and 5-7 in the MAC.
D.J. Cooper fouled out, which put Taylor in the game to run the point. Taylor found himself open on the wing after the Flashes overloaded the opposite side. Kent State’s help defense was nonexistent, giving Taylor a clean look at the basket. The sophomore guard hit nothing but the bottom of the net with 13 seconds to play, putting Ohio up by one.
“It just wasn’t done by me,” said Taylor. “Coach [Jim Christian] drew up the play for Walt [Offutt]. They stopped that and Walt told me to circle up and kicked it. And I just hit a good shot.”
“I would have rather [Taylor] not get it off, if that makes sense,” said Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff of the game-winning three, “and had Offutt try to finish in traffic.”
The Flashes had plenty of time to run a play and would have won on any made basket, but they lost composure as the clock ticked down. The tune of Ohio’s raucous crowd turned the Flashes’ pace frenetic. Nick Kellogg streaked ahead for a fast-break layup after Kent State’s Randal Holt lost his handle to give Ohio a three-point lead to seal the victory.
“I think there’s some value in winning close games like this,” said Offutt. This is Ohio’s second consecutive game against Kent State in which it’s had to find ways to win in the dying minutes. “I admire these guys that come off the bench,” he continued, “how valuable they are for this team.”
Ohio jumped out to an early lead only with help from Reggie Keely and T.J. Hall. Keely slammed home the Bobcats’ first bucket of the game and Hall followed immediately with a cool three-pointer.
The “coolness” spread, however, in all the wrong ways for the ‘Cats. After breaking out to a 7-1 lead, Ohio failed to make another basket for more than three minutes. The Bobcats were given plenty of open looks at the basket, but were way off the mark each time, including an airball from Hall and a screaming three-point attempt off the backboard from Walter Offutt.
After Kent State worked the score back to a 7-7 tie, D.J. Cooper hit a deep three to put Ohio back in the lead, but it was short-lived. Chris Evans hit a contested three as time wound down on the shot clock to give the Golden Flashes a four-point lead. Cooper’s three was the only field goal Ohio hit between 17:57 and 6:20.
The Bobcats made a 15-3 run in the final six minutes of the first half to retake the lead on a pilfering by Cooper and a three on the other end with two minutes to play. Cooper made a point to give the Kent State bench an extended glare after hitting the shot. The senior played an integral part in the late run with six points, two steals and an assist during the stretch.
Cooper leaned on his tendency toward big plays and rattled home a three at the buzzer to give the Bobcats a five-point lead heading into the break. Ohio’s point guard, much like Ohio’s last contest with Kent State, had to take the game into his own hands when the scoring well ran dry. He finished with 11 first half points and 13 for the game.
“I thought we came off the floor with so much energy,” said Christian. “I think it kind of spread to the first 10 minutes of the second half.”
Hall, after air-balling three three-point attempts in the first half, hit his first attempt out of the break to give Ohio a 10-point lead. That make was one of two in the second half for Hall, who finished with nine points.
“It’s pretty easy to forget the first half when you’ve got guys in your ear telling you to keep shooting, keep shooting,” said Hall. “They get more mad at me for not shooting than missing, so when you’ve got guys in your ear telling you to keep shooting, you just forget fast.”
Ohio began to take control of the game quickly in the second half, outscoring the Flashes 15-5 in the first five minutes. Ivo Baltic highlighted the early run with a two-handed jam after Nick Kellogg laid it off the backboard on the fast break.
Kent State and Ohio continued the game going blow-for-blow, but the Bobcats maintained their hefty lead for most of the second half until the seven-minute mark. Holt nailed a three and then fed to Chris Evans on the fast break for a jam to bring the Flashes within four.
“At that point, I think the energy just got zapped,” said Christian. “That’s the part we’ve got to fight through because we can’t allow that to happen.”
Evans hit another three with 6:13 on the clock to put Kent State down one. The Bobcats, in need of a response, turned the ball over, Keely dropping a pass in the paint. Mark Henniger hit a jumper just outside the lane to give the Flashes the lead as Keely reeled on the other end with an apparent leg injury.
Hall hit another big three-pointer with 3:3_ left to play to put Ohio back in the lead, but Brewer quickly responded with a layup. Back-and-forth the teams went as Offutt knocked down a layup to put Ohio up 67-65.
Offutt took a charge on the opposite end, presenting the Bobcats with an opportunity to make it a two-possession game. Refs called Hall for a double-dribble, however, and Holt took advantage on the next possession, putting in a hotly contested fade-away over Kellogg.
The two teams went into the final minute of the game tied at 69 after Kris Brewer sank two free throws. Cooper hit him with a foul after he was left open in the lane on a slip. Christian called a timeout after the free throws and the ‘Cats missed on their various attempts to tap in a Reggie Keely miss.
Kent State received the ball with the shot clock off and allowed the clock to tick down to next to nothing. A miscommunication of the play led to Henniger throwing the ball at Ohio’s marching band rather than his cutting teammate.
“With nine seconds, 10 seconds to go, I want to try to score before [Ohio’s] whole defense gets set,” said Senderoff. “We tried to make a play and, you know, stuff happens.”
The Bobcats got the ball with 3.4 seconds to play. Offutt gave the ball to Cooper on the inbounds but his desperation heave from half-court hit off the square of the backboard, off the rim and out, returning fans’ hearts to their rightful places at center-chest as the game was sent into overtime.
Ohio used a circus shot by Offutt sandwiched by a free throw apiece from Keely and Cooper to earn the lead at the start of the overtime period. However, a wide-open dunk by Evans tied the game again at 73.
Brewer hit a free throw to give the Flashes a one-point lead with just more than a minute remaining. The Bobcats turned it over on the following possession, giving Kent State a chance to widen the lead.
After what to many seemed like an over-and-back violation, Brewer escaped to get to the line after being fouled on a layup. He hit the first of two and Keely reeled in the rebound to give Ohio a chance to tie or win with the shot clock off. Thus, the stage was set for Taylor to win the game.
“I just let the play happen,” said Taylor, “let the play develop. [Christian] always tells us, ‘Take what the defense gives you.’ And that’s what they gave us and I hit the shot.”
Those three points were Taylor’s only points of the game, but they gave Ohio a very important victory in perhaps more dramatic fashion than they desired. The Bobcats have a makeup game coming their way Wednesday when Eastern Michigan comes to town again. The previous game between the Bobcats and Eagles was cancelled due to a shutdown of Ohio’s campus Wednesday, Jan. 30.