Ohio Crowned MAC Tournament Champs

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The last time the Ohio women’s basketball team won the regular season Mid-American Conference title and the MAC Tournament championship in the same season, Ohio coach Bob Boldon was a young kid playing baseball, and his players weren’t even born yet.

But 30 years later, the Bobcats once again reign atop the MAC with a 60-44 victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday afternoon behind a stellar second half performance from tournament MVP Kiyanna Black.

With the victory, the Bobcats clinched their first NCAA tournament birth since 1995 and their first MAC championship since 1985. The team’s 27 victories on the season are the most in program history.

“We have a lot of players that are mentally tough, but I don’t think we have a player on the team who wants to win more than Kiyanna,” said Boldon, who was named 2015 MAC coach of the year earlier in the week. “She knows she has a role on this team. It was nice to see her shots fall after she didn’t shoot particularly well yesterday and the first half today.

“Other players would have quit and put their head down, but Kiyanna wasn’t discouraged and kept shooting the ball and helped us in the second half.”

Black was the difference maker for the ‘Cats in the second half, as her 21 second-half points broke the doors open on the game and gave Ohio some breathing room. Black had a rough first half as she only shot 2-for-7 from the field and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc.

“It’s a great feeling to be named MVP, but I feel like my whole team is the MVP,” Black said. “The team helps me a lot by getting me open shots and open up the floor for me. We are all the MVPs.”

Black finished the night with 25 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Ohio headed into the locker room at halftime trailing 27-25, as 2015 All-MAC Tournament team selection Cha Sweeney had 16 of Eastern Michigan’s 27 points.

But in the second half, EMU only put up 17 points to Ohio’s 31, and going 6-for-31 (19.4 percent) from the field.

“I’m just so happy for Mariah Byard,” Black said. “She has had some tough years here and to send her out like this is just amazing.”

As for Byard, she finished her last MAC tournament game with 12 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Byard was feeling it from beyond the arc, as she shot 4-for-8 from three.

“I’m just really happy; there are no other words to describe how I am feeling right now,” Byard said. “I am relieved, this is awesome. This makes the past three years just seem okay. Now that I am ending like this, it’s awesome.”

Byard, Black, and Lexie Baldwin were all named to the All-MAC Tournament team for their performances over the two days.

“I have literally been trying to find the words to describe how I am feeling and I am just on Cloud 9 right now,” redshirt junior Kat Yelle said. “I never doubted that our team can get here, but at the same time, I thought it was a distant future.

“Coming off last season, I knew it would take everything for us to get here, and it did take everything in us. I remember coming to Ohio on my visits and thinking to myself that it was weird that there are no banners, so I’m happy to put up a banner,”

The Bobcats have some time to celebrate and soak in the championship until they find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Monday at 7 p.m. when the selection committee will announce the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket.

“Playing in the NCAA tournament will be a dream come true,” Yelle said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve watched March Madness on TV and that was my goal coming into college.”