The MAC Player of the Year did all that he could to keep the #2 seed Buffalo Bulls in the second semi-final game of the MAC Tournament. But, in the end, it just wasn't enough, as the #3 seed OHIO Bobcats and their barrage of three-pointers ended the Bulls' chance at a NCAA Tournament bid. Buffalo's Mitchell Watt scored 32 points on 11-17 shooting, but ultimately did not have enough help from teammates to out-man the hot-shooting Bobcats.
OHIO point guard DJ Cooper was downright feelin' it in the first half. He had 15 points on 5 threes, some of which were beyond NBA range. They were impressive, and you could see that he was in the zone. T.J. Hall, who only averages 10 minutes per game, stepped up largely with 8 first half points and hit a clutch three before the half that pushed the lead to 12 (he finished with 13, a full 10 points over his average). The beginning of the second half was when the Bulls made their move, as Watt's jumper just five minutes into the half cut the lead to 3. After that, both teams started making runs. The Bobcats would push the lead out a little, but then the Bulls would answer with a run of their own. It went back and forth like this for the rest of the half, as every time Buffalo looked to try to eclipse the 'Cats, Ivo Baltic squashed it. Baltic made many clutch shots in the second half, and personally put the end to many Buffalo advances.
This game really came down to three point shooting. Cooper finished 5-11 from deep after cooling off in the second half. Hall was 3-4 and Nick Kellogg was 2-3. The Bobcats shot 48% (12-25) overall, while the Bulls only able to go 6-25 (24%). A lot of Buffalo's troubles from deep came from senior Zach Filzen, who only finished 3-12. He had a chance to tie it after an offensive rebound in the waning seconds but couldn't come through.
Watt's stat line was what a MAC POY should be. 32 points, 11-17 shooting, 9-11 from the line, 11 rebounds (7! offensive) and 3 assists. Frontcourt mate Javon McCrea had a nice game as well, scoring 12 and grabbing 7 boards. Filzen and Dave Barnett each had 9, but after that the Bulls had nothing. This result only adds to the frustration that Bulls fans have about this team in the MAC Tournament. They always seem to have a talented team but can never get over the hump and win games in Cleveland. Reggie Witherspoon is doing great things with that program, but his accomplishments in March are leave a lot to be desired. Yes, he reached the Finals in 2009, but hasn't been back since.
As far as the old adage "it's very hard to beat the same team three times in one season" goes, that seemed to be squashed tonight. Akron took out Kent State for the fourth time in a row (going back to last year's MAC Championship game) and the Bobcats completed the season sweep of the Bulls. Whether it is the style of play or if both the Bobcats and Zips just had something on their opponents, they both earned their spots in the title game.
With the win, the Bobcats will move on to face mini-rival Akron in the MAC Tournament Championship game. This match-up will be a rematch of the 2010 MAC Tournament Championship, where OHIO prevailed over the Zips in overtime. That was the year that they won the tournament as the nine seed, and eventually upset Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament. The game is at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2 (or 9 p.m. if you've already set your clocks ahead for daylight savings).