Ohio fans probably didn't think the excitement in the Convocation Center could be topped after Monday night's 15-point comeback that saw Ohio pull out a miraculous win over UNC Greensboro. Wednesday was even more exciting. The two teams exchanged the lead 19 times but the Bobcats didn't pull out this barnburner. This time around the Bobcats fell 77-72.
Coach Saul Phillips was content with the experience for his team and talked candidly about the positives associated with younger guys getting to play in postseason tournaments.
"All-in-all, absolutely 100 percent great experience for us," Phillips said.
Ohio's first half struggles luckily did not doom them. Just to list a few...
- The Eagles hoisted 20 more shots than Ohio (38 compared to 18)
- Lyonell Gaines scored 12 and grabbed 8 boards (4 offensive) in the first half.
- Jaaron Simmons didn't hit a shot from the floor and turned the ball over 5 times.
- Ohio turned the ball over 12 times and allowed the 8 offensive boards. The Eagles' press and physical play caused all kinds of issues and rushed the Bobcats into quick inefficient possessions.
- Antonio Campbell scored just 2 points while battling foul trouble.
- Ohio went over 12 minutes of play without hitting a field goal before Treg Setty hit one with 2:04 to go in the half.
The second half was much more pleasing to the eye for everyone involved.
Both squads shot out of the gates as they seemingly regained the feeling in their fingers. Dartis started the second half of the court after missing the last 19 minutes of the first after sustaining an ankle injury. Ohio tied the ball game within the first minute of the second half with buckets from Simmons and Kenny Kaminski.
That was when the back-and-forth really started going. Morehead held Ohio off for a few minutes before a Jordan Dartis layup put the Bobcats up 37-36 with 15:32 to go. So what did Corban Collins do? Nail a 3-pointer in cold blood. It was far from the only impressive bucket Collins hit in the second half. More on that in a second.
Treg Setty knew fully well that he was playing for the chance to continue his college career once again. His 20-point effort was key to keeping the 'Cats alive. Setty put up several buckets when Ohio looked to be in dire straights (see the 12-minute drought).
"It's tough to see it all go, but I'm going to be a part of all this vicariously in the future," Setty said.
The two traded blows. After the Dartis bucket that put Ohio up, the Eagles and Bobcats traded the lead 10 times in about 8:00 of play. Collins nailed another death shot of sorts right in from of the Morehead bench with 1:54 to go. It was sick. It was nasty. It put MSU up 68-65.
"He just makes everything so easy for everybody else, and he plays with such confidence out there, it's unbelievable," Morehead State coach Sean Woods said.
Collins ended the night with 14 points and his 4 treys.
The 'Cats didn't claim the lead again.
Simmons picked things up a bit statistically and ended the night with 21 points, 7 assists and 7 turnovers. Campbell finished his junior year with an 8-point 12-rebound effort after playing limited minutes (23) because of foul trouble. Kaminski knocked down 5 triples to account for all of his points.
When asked about what he'd miss about coaching Setty, Phillips absolutely gushed about the senior. "I've never met anyone quite like him and I don't know if I ever will," Phillips said.
Morehead State hit its free throws and got to go home happy knowing that it will be playing in a best of three series for the CBI title.
"All I can do is give them the knowledge and encouragement," Woods said. "And the only way we have a chance is to outwork people, out-tough people. And they're bought in and that's exactly what we're doing.
Xavier Moon led the way with 18 points and knocked down crucial free throws (he went 8-8).
Ohio's season ended with the 'Cats having lost only its third home game and 12th on the year. Setty is the lone graduating senior on the team. He appreciates his time in Athens, that much is for sure.
"When I was being recruited, I was taken away by OU...," Setty said. "It was a no-brainer, anybody would have made that choice I feel like. I was just blessed enough to be given (the chance).