Posted by: bobcatbasketball | March 13, 2010

Bobcats’ Shock the MAC, Advance into NCAA Tourney

Junior guard Armon Bassett embraces his mother after the Bobcats' championship game win over Akron on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

“No one believed in us! No one thought we could do it!,” screamed a joyful Armon Bassett as he made his way through the bedlam of hugging players and coaches. The Bobcats’ junior guard had just finished off an incredible tournament run with 25 points to help Ohio knock off defending-champion Akron 81-75 in the final of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland on Saturday. With the win, Ohio wins the MAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Freshman DJ Cooper chipped in 23 points to quiet critics who were concerned over his ailing right knee.

Bassett was named tournament MVP and led all scorers with a 30.2 points-per-game average during the four games. After the win, Bassett clutched the trophy he and his teammates had earned with their shocking run. “I’ve got a tight grip on it,” said Bassett with his arms wrapped around the hardware. “I can’t believe it.”

Coming in as the ninth seeded team in the tournament, not much was expected of the upstart Bobcats. However, they shocked the conference by, first, knocking off Ball State on the road, then beating top-ranked Kent State, rival Miami and 2009 MAC champion Akron in Cleveland. “It’s just a testament to how hard these guys work,” said head coach John Groce.

“We went through a lot of stuff this year and we all stayed together,” said Bassett. “A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel, but we kept working hard. All 12 guys came to practice with their hard hats on.”

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the program. A year in which Groce could allow his stellar recruiting class to get their feet wet before he could bring in more of his own players next year. Instead, Ohio got outstanding play from his new players, MAC freshman of the year Cooper, and Basset, who is playing his first season in the green and white after transferring from Indiana.

The Ohio University men's basketball team poses with the MAC Championship trophy after their 81-75 win over Akron in the final at Quicken Loans Area in Cleveland.

After their play in the tournament, people in the MAC have taken notice. “This team is going to be pretty good next year. The way [John Groce] recruits.” said Miami head coach Charlie Coles after their 54-42 loss to the young Bobcats’.

The Bobcats’ aren’t thinking about next year, though. “We want to keep this thing going,” said senior Kenneth Van Kempen. “We want to go as far as we can.” The Bobcats’ will have their chance to prove themselves once again when they take on Georgetown in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | March 10, 2010

Bobcats Look to Score Huge Upset

Kent State may boast the No. 1 seed and a 2-0 mark at the Convo, but the young players on the Ohio University men’s basketball team aren’t scared. “We believe we can play with any team in our league,” said MAC Freshman of the Year DJ Cooper. “They barely beat us the first time we played.”

It’s that attitude that has kept Ohio (18-14, 7-9 MAC) going through its ups and downs all season long. Most find it hard to define this season as positive or negative.

Some point to the three players suspended a total of six times for various reasons and the dismissal of freshman stud guard Jay Kinney, who was arrested for drug possession in February. Some point to the inconsistent play of the team throughout the season. In one month the team managed to lose at Miami by twelve points, then beat them by two points on a buzzer-beater at the Convo.

Others point to newcomers like DJ Cooper and Armon Bassett, who have given fans hope for the future of the program. Cooper won the MAC Freshman of the Year award on Wednesday by receiving 22 of the 24 votes from the MAC News Media Association Panel. His season averages 2.7 steals per game and six assists per game led the conference. Armon Bassett, a junior who transfered from Indiana University after two seasons, led the team with 15.5 points per game.

Either way, the players aren’t looking for this roller-coaster season to end. “We definitely have a chance,” said lone senior Kenneth Van Kempen. “We know we lost twice to [Kent State], but they didn’t dominate us.” In both games the Bobcats led the Golden Flashes late; only to fall to late rallies

Head coach John Groce says he looks forward to being the underdog and praised his opponent for their recent play. “They are playing their best basketball. I’ve watched their Akron film, and they were unbelievable, phenomenal — maybe the best I’ve seen a MAC team play in any given game in my two years here,” said Groce, refering to Kent State’s 74-61 drubbing of last year’s MAC champion Akron Zips. Kent State has won 13 of their last 14 games, including their last five straight.

Yet Ohio’s newcomers have learned to push through adversity. Their maturation process has been sped up because of the controversy that followed the team throughout the season. “This isn’t even close to the same team that we started out with at the beginning of the season,” said Groce. Freshman like forward Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic have seen their roles expand as players were shuffled in and out of the lineup.

Some would think that the young players would be intimidated by the red-hot Flashes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. “It’s real exciting — but [there is] a little nervousness,” Cooper said. “We’re coming into the game real confident and try to do what we do best.”

While the Bobcats hope to shock the entire conference with a win, it all depends on which team shows up to Cleveland on Thursday night.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | February 14, 2010

Kinney Dismissed

Freshman guard Jay Kinney has been dismissed from the Ohio University men’s basketball team. Kinney plead guilty to drug possession charges last week. Kinney was also arrested for marijuana possession during the preseason, but the charges were later reduced to persistent disorderly conduct. In a statement, assistant athletics director Jason Corriher said, “Ohio freshman guard Jay Kinney has been dismissed from the Ohio men’s basketball program due to a violation of team rules and policies.” Kinney could not be reached for comment.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | February 10, 2010

Questions arise after players have day in court.

Suspended freshman guard Jay Kinney goes up for a shot during the Bobcats' loss to Ball State on Jan. 31. Kinney plead guilty to marijuana possession last week.

A depleted Bobcats lineup earned its fourth MAC win during a 90-74 romp over Western Michigan at the Convo on Tuesday night. However the buzz before the game surrounded the two players who plead guilty to marijuana possession charges last week. Police last week stopped sophomore guard Steven Coleman and freshman guard Jay Kinney, who are roommates, for a broken headlight on their sport-utility vehicle. During the stop, officers said they noticed a marijuana odor coming from the car and further observation led them to a glass pipe in the back seat. Officers then found bags of marijuana on Kinney’s person and also in what Coleman claimed was his backpack. Coleman also claimed ownership of the pipe, which brought about an additional charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Head coach John Groce has suspended both players indefinitely.

This is the third time in the past month that Groce has suspended a player indefinitely. Junior center Devaughn Washington was also suspended last month for violating team rules, but returned to action Tuesday after a lengthy suspension.  Even more alarming is that this is the second time being suspended for both Kinney and Coleman. Kinney was in court on drug paraphernalia possession charges (that was later reduced to persistent disorderly conduct) during the preseason and Coleman was suspended for an unspecified “violation of team rules”. The athletic department has refused to specify on any of the violations committed by players, but was forced to recognize Kinney’s and Coleman’s mishap after both appeared in court.

The high amount of suspensions are sure to raise some eyebrows about the way Groce disciplines his players. Even with the suspensions being levied against players, his recruits can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Although Groce did not recruit Washington, he was heavily involved in bringing in both Kinney and Coleman. Groce’s previous assistant coaching tenures do not reveal much in terms of troubled players. The only other incident occurred recently in Southern Florida. USF guard Anthony Crater, who transferred from Ohio State after Groce left there, failed his second drug test last December. Groce prized Crater as a recruit was sent personally to represent OSU at many of Crater’s high school games. However, Groce has not coached Crater since 2007 and it would be unfair to pin another program’s troubles on him.

Media relations athletic director would not comment when asked to explain the suspensions, only saying, “The department is aware of the recent legal situation regarding Ohio guards Steven Coleman and Jay Kinney.” 

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | February 4, 2010

Breaking: Kinney suspended indefinitely

Freshman guard Jay Kinney has been suspended indefinitely for “violating team rules” according to Ohio director of media relations Jason Corriher. His suspension will start tonight against Toledo. This is the second time that Kinney has been suspended in the past two weeks. Kinney was also suspended one game for taking a swing at a Buffalo player during the Bobcats’ 99-77 win over the Bulls. Junior Devaughn Washington was also suspended indefinitely last week for violating team rules and is still serving his suspension.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | February 3, 2010

Freeman sees new role

Even back in Muncie, Indiana, Tommy Freeman never thought he would end up being a mentor to his team, but after being thrown into leadership role this season, he has learned to embrace it.

“I’d say that I had to take on a more mature role and become a leader this season. It’s been weird, but I accept it now,” said Freeman.

The junior forward said he has learned from the veteran leaders of teams past. Players like Leon Williams, Bubba Walther and Jerome Tillman played important parts in molding the practiced Bobcat.

“Bubba definitely took me under his wing and made sure I had whatever I needed to succeed. He was my mentor the entire time he was here and I owe him a lot,” said Freeman.

Freeman’s play reflects Walther’s influence. Last year Freeman was the first Bobcat in the 75-year history of the program to lead the Mid-American Conference in three-point percentage. Walther, a sharpshooter himself, had said in 2007 that Freeman had the potential to be a better marksman than himself and that he respects Freeman’s “passion for the game”. It’s that same passion that Freeman hopes to pass onto the young Bobcat squad.

“They have a lot of growing up to do, but they’re more mature than most freshman. It makes my job a lot easier,” said Freeman.

He even believes the ‘Cats have an outside shot a winning the tournament. Freeman said that though the team may have their poor performances, but they “put a scare into the best teams in the conference”. Picked to finish last in the MAC eastern division, Freeman has led the team to a 11-10 overall mark.

“People may have counted us out, but we knew we could do well and that we didn’t need to listen to them,” said Freeman. “We knew the talent we had here.”

That talent has allowed Freeman to fit into a more comfortable role this season. Although his 9.3 points per game are less than the 7.4 per game he scored last season, he has stopped trying to do too much out on the court. Freeman was called on to be a big time scorer and create his own shots last season, and struggled with the increased role. This season Freeman lets his talented guards run the show and punishes the defense from the perimeter.

“I’ve definitely relaxed and I feel like I’m at home in the Convo.”

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | February 1, 2010

Feature Preview: Tommy Freeman

Junior guard Tommy Freeman passes the ball during the Bobcats' 67-66 overtime loss to Ball State on Sunday at the Convo.

I have interviewed Junior guard Tommy Freeman for a feature story about his career and progression with the Bobcats. I will go over his time in Indiana, where he grew up, and his thoughts on the current Bobcat’s. Only Freeman, fellow Junior Devaughn Washington, and Senior Kenneth Van Kempen are left from the previous coaching system of Tim O’Shea, who left to coach Bryant University. I’m planning on interviewing someone from his hometown of Muncie, Ind. and get some perspective on what made him choose Ohio University.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | January 27, 2010

Suspensions Looming

Ohio University men's head basketball coach John Groce has kept silent about the rash of suspensions that have been handed down throughout the season.

Washington suspended for second time

Junior forward Devaughn Washington was suspended for the second time this season prior to Saturday’s 99-77 win against Buffalo. Team officials and head coach John Groce would not elaborate on the reasons behind the suspension, only saying that it was for an unspecified violation of team rules.

When asked if he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the situation, Groce responded, “It is. We’ll make the decision when we bring him back.”

Washington was also suspended earlier in the season for unspecified violations of team rules.

Kinney earns one-game suspension

Freshman Jay Kinney earned a one-game suspension on Tuesday after the Mid-American Conference governing board reviewed tape of the guard throwing a punch at a Buffalo player late in the second half. Kinney was called for a flagrant foul and ejected from the game. All flagrant fouls are reviewed by the conference and the board decided that Kinney’s swing, although it did not connect, warranted a suspension of some kind. Kinney was previously suspended after he was arrested during pre-season for possession of drug paraphernalia. He will miss tonight’s game against Nothern Illinois.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | January 25, 2010

Freeman shines in Bobcats’ first MAC win.

Junior guard Tommy Freeman goes up for a shot during the Bobcats' win over Taylor University. Freeman scored a career high 27 points on Saturday during the Bobcats' 99-77 win over Buffalo at the Convo.

Junior guard Tommy Freeman put on a show for the 10,000 fans that trekked down to the Convo on Saturday afternoon. Freeman’s career high 27 points led the Bobcats to  a 99-77 rout of Buffalo and their first conference win of the season.

“I just focused on really running the floor in transition and finding some open spots when they went to their 1-3-1, and some of the other defenses that they played,” said Freeman

Ohio (10-9, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) also snapped a three game losing streak en route to its second highest scoring output all season.Freshman guard Jay Kinney also scored 18 points for the ‘Cats while standout point-guard DJ Cooper added 9 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds and 7 steals to lead a balanced Ohio attack. Guard John Boyer led the way for Buffalo with 20 points and forward Sean Smiley chipped in 18.

Head Coach John Groce praised the young team for changing the things that seemed to be hampering them in their previous 3 losses. “I thought our ‘teamness’ [sic], I don’t know if that’s a word—a coach that I used to play for at Taylor University used it all the time—and I thought it was good today,” he said.

The team got into a rhythm early that was spearheaded by Freeman, who found himself open often in the first half. Freeman finished 5-8 from the perimeter, while Kinney also finished 4-6. Overall, the Bobcats finished shooting over 50% of their field goals and an even 50% from behind the arc.

The Bobcats next travel to Northern Illinois to take on the Huskies. After the Buffalo game, Groce knows the team can’t be content with one win in their last four games.

“We take a day off tomorrow and we’ve got to get better Monday; we’ve got to get better Tuesday, and go play at Northern Illinois who lately has been extremely hot and playing really well. They are a very talented basketball team,” he said.

Ohio goes for its second MAC win on Wednesday night in DeKalb, Ill. and tipoff is at 8 p.m. ET.

Posted by: bobcatbasketball | January 20, 2010

Second half continues to haunt the ‘Cats

Freshman guard DJ Cooper goes up for a shot during the Bobcats' 79-67 loss to Miami last Saturday in Oxford.

The Bobcats lost yet another MAC contest 65-57 at Bowling Green on Wednesday night due to a poor performance in the second half. The Falcons outscored Ohio by 16 points in the second half as the team once again failed to show up late after putting in an outstanding first half. With the loss, the Bobcats are now 9-9 overall and 0-4 in MAC play.

Up Next: Saturday 1/23 vs. Buffalo 2pm at the Convo

Game preview tomorrow!

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