PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Who knew that all this time Ohio used the regular season as a warm-up act?
The Bobcats' time to shine is March.
The MAC tournament champion Bobcats, who had a losing record in conference play, have found their way in the only month that matters and now boast an NCAA tournament win for the first time in 27 years.
Georgetown might want to skip the tourney next time it's in Providence.
Armon Bassett scored 32 points to lead the 14th-seeded Bobcats to a convincing 97-83 win over the Hoyas in the Midwest Regional.
How about a standing O for Ohio!
“We may not be a better team, just got to be a better team on a given night,” Bassett said.
In early March, no one expected Ohio (22-14) to be in this position. The team had just finished a 7-9 season in Mid-American Conference play and entered the conference tournament as the ninth seed.
Four wins later, Ohio was in the 65-team field.
Forty minutes later, the Bobcats are in the second round where they will play Tennessee, which earned a 62-59 win over San Diego State.
Coach John Groce wouldn't call it the biggest win in team history.
“I certainly think it's one of them,” he said. “What it does more than anything is, I think it gives tremendous belief with our guys in what we're doing, in our system.”
Ohio seized the lead early on its 3-point shooting and never had a serious letdown the rest of the way. The Hoyas (23-11) made a small run in the second half that cut a 19-point lead down to seven.
No worries. D.J. Cooper, who scored 23 points, made a 3 to the delight of all those green-clad fans who made the trip and cheered them on the whole way. The Bobcats cruised from there and have won six straight games.
Ohio joined Murray State, which knocked off Vanderbilt 66-65 at the buzzer, as the two big upset winners Thursday.
“There were some times where the only people that really believed in what we were doing and where we were headed were the guys in our locker room and our administration,” Groce said.
Chris Wright led the third-seeded Hoyas (23-11) with 28 points. Georgetown coach John Thompson III said a day earlier his team was playing their best basketball of the season. It certainly didn't extend into the tournament opener.
The Hoyas looked sensational in winning the first three games of the Big East tournament, before losing to West Virginia in the championship, and appeared to have positioned themselves as a legitimate Final Four threat.
It wasn't to be.
“We really thought we could make some noise in this tournament,” Georgetown guard Austin Freeman said. “We really didn't imagine we would be one-and-done.”
The Hoyas had a rough time in Providence back in 1989, too, when they narrowly beat No. 16 seed Princeton 50-49. At least they won in '89.
This time the Hoyas were flustered and frustrated throughout. When Greg Monroe was on his back after being whistled for an offense foul, he pounded the court in disbelief and anger.
Monroe had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Hollis Thompson scored 16 points.
Monroe, the 6-foot-11 center with NBA prospects, appeared to lean toward returning for his junior season.
“I'm ready to go back and see how I can help my team next year,” he said.
The Big East took a beating on Thursday with the Hoyas and sixth-seeded Marquette both losing. Notre Dame also lost to Old Dominion. Second-seeded Villanova needed overtime to eek past Robert Morris earlier in the day in Providence — the Big East's headquarters.
Bassett, the MAC tournament MVP, made it look easy. After a 3-pointer made it 39-26, he just turned toward the crowd with a shrug and smiled.
Ohio led by 12 at halftime and kept on rolling. Cooper picked Georgetown's Jason Clark clean, sprinted toward the basket and tossed the ball backward high over his head where a streaking DeVaughn Washington slammed home the alley-oop in the play of the game.
The Bobcats have something to show for a turbulent season. They opened conference play with four straight losses, lost one player for the season with a broken hand and Washington was suspended five games for team violations. Groce even kicked a player off the team.
“I'm excited for our guys with everything they've been through,” Groce said.
No. 6 Tennessee 62, No. 11 San Diego State 59
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Melvin Goins made his fourth 3-pointer with 19 seconds left after San Diego State cut the deficit to one, and Tennessee held off the Aztecs to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional.
The sixth-seeded Volunteers (26-8) will play Saturday against No. 14 seed Ohio. A victory would put Tennessee in the round of 16 for the third time in four years.
Goins and J.P. Prince scored 15 points apiece for Tennessee on coach Bruce Pearl's 50th birthday.
D.J. Gay had 16 points for No. 11 seed San Diego State (25-9). Kawhi Leonard scored 12 with 10 rebounds, but he missed a well-guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.
The Aztecs, who won the Mountain West Conference, have never won an NCAA tournament game.
No. 1 Kansas 90, No. 16 Lehigh 74
OKLAHOMA CITY — Top-seeded Kansas pulled away from scrappy Lehigh in the second half, avoiding a monumental upset in the Midwest Regional.
Marcus Morris had 26 points and Sherron Collins added 18 as Kansas (33-2) fell into its season-long pattern of playing in spurts, giving No. 16 seed Lehigh (22-11) hope of making college basketball history.
The Jayhawks led by just six in the first half and didn't pull away until midway through the second to keep from becoming the biggest team to be bounced from the bracket on a wild opening day of the NCAA tournament.
Tyrel Reed added four big 3-pointers for Kansas as it moves on to face gritty Northern Iowa in a second-round game that suddenly seems much more daunting.
No. 9 Northern Iowa 69, No. 8 UNLV 66
OKLAHOMA CITY — Ali Farokhmanesh hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4.9 seconds left to lift ninth-seeded Northern Iowa over No. 8 seed UNLV.
Farokhmanesh found himself open after Kwadzo Ahelegbe had chewed up the majority of the clock following Oscar Bellfield's tying 3-pointer for UNLV with 35 seconds remaining. Johnny Moran reversed the ball to Farokhmanesh, who drained the jumper with the shot clock running down.
The Runnin' Rebels (25-9) got one last chance to tie it, but Tre'Von Willis didn't get his 3-pointer off before the final buzzer and it was off-target anyway.
Farokhmanesh finished with 17 points, including three 3-pointers in the second half, and Ahelegbe added 13 points as the Panthers (29-4) snapped a 20-year drought in the NCAA tournament.
No. 13 Murray St. 66, No. 4 Vanderbilt 65
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Danero Thomas hit a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded and 13th-seeded Murray State stunned No. 4 seed Vanderbilt.
President Barack Obama must have been onto something picking the revved-up Racers (31-4) to get past the first round in the West Regional. It was the school's first victory in the NCAA tournament in 24 years, and Murray State will play Butler in the second round.
For the second time in as many NCAA appearances, Vanderbilt (24-9) bowed out early as the higher seed. The Commodores were a first-round upset victim of Siena in 2008 when seeded fourth.
Jermaine Beal made two free throws with 12.7 seconds left to give Vandy the lead. B.J. Jenkins missed a rushed 3-pointer on the other end, but the ball went out of bounds off a Vanderbilt player with 4.2 seconds left, giving Murray State the final shot.
No. 5 Butler 77, No. 12 UTEP 59
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Shelvin Mack hit a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 18 of his 25 points after halftime to lead the fifth-seeded Bulldogs.
Gordon Hayward scored 13 points and Matt Howard added 11 as Butler (29-4) won its 21st straight game to extend the sport's longest active winning streak.
Derrick Caracter had 20 points for UTEP (26-7), which won 16 straight games and a league title before a tournament loss to Houston last Saturday. Randy Culpepper added 16 points, but the Miners' defense couldn't stop the patient outside shooting of the Bulldogs.
No. 7 BYU 99, No. 10 Florida 92, 2OT
OKLAHOMA CITY — Jimmer Fredette scored 37 points, including two 3-pointers in double overtime, to seal the Cougars' thrilling win over 10th-seeded Florida.
Fredette made a 3 from the top of the key to put the seventh-seeded Cougars (30-5) ahead 90-83 with 2:42 left, then added another with just over a minute remaining to put the game away.
Michael Loyd Jr. added a career-high 26 points for BYU.
Kenny Boynton scored 27 points for the Gators (21-13), who rallied from a 13-point deficit in their first NCAA tournament game since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
No. 2 Kansas State 82, No. 15 North Texas 62
OKLAHOMA CITY — Denis Clemente had 17 points and six assists, and the second-seeded Wildcats had a 46-21 advantage inside to avoid becoming an opening-day upset victim.
Kansas State (27-7) gathered itself after a shaky start, riding its defense into the second round for the second time in three years. The Wildcats held the Mean Green (24-9) to 31 percent shooting and stymied Josh White to only three points.
Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly added 15 points each for Kansas State, which will play BYU next.
No. 2 Villanova 73, No. 15 Robert Morris 70, OT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Scottie Reynolds responded to his benching with a clutch performance at the foul line in the final minutes of regulation to help the Wildcats survive a serious scare after trailing most of the way.
Coach Jay Wright sat Reynolds at the start of the game to make a “teaching point,” and he missed 13 of 15 shots from the floor for Villanova (25-7). But the senior star made seven of eight free throws in the final 3:06 to send the game into overtime, finishing with 20 points.
Karon Abraham scored 23 for Robert Morris (23-13), which had a shot at the buzzer to tie the game in overtime that was no good.
No. 10 Saint Mary's 80, No. 7 Richmond 71
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Omar Samhan had 29 points and 12 rebounds despite spending most of the game in foul trouble, and Saint Mary's pulled away to win an NCAA tournament game for the first time in six tries since 1959.
The 10th-seeded Gaels (27-5) will play Saturday against Villanova in the second round.
Mickey McConnell, the West Coast Conference tournament MVP, scored 23 points for the Gaels, who had a 40-18 rebounding edge and 21-4 advantage in second-chance points.
David Gonzalvez scored 18 and Kevin Anderson had 16 for Richmond (26-9).
No. 11 Old Dominion 51, No. 6 Notre Dame 50
NEW ORLEANS — Carleton Scott's 3-pointer rattled out in the closing seconds, and 11th-seeded Old Dominion stunned the Irish and star Luke Harangody.
The Fighting Irish rushed the ball up the court as the clock wound down, but Scott's attempt to tie the game didn't fall and Harangody's putback at the buzzer wasn't enough.
Frank Hassell scored 15 to lead Old Dominion (27-8), which held Harangody to four points — and scoreless until the final minute. The Monarchs will play Baylor in the second round.
Ben Hansbrough scored 17 points to lead the Irish (23-12).
No. 3 Baylor 68, No. 14 Sam Houston State 59
NEW ORLEANS — Ekpe Udoh had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and LaceDarius Dunn scored 13 to help the third-seeded Bears win an NCAA tournament game for the first time in 60 years.
Udoh also had five assists, two blocks and two steals for Baylor (26-7), which broke open a close game down the stretch. It's the school's first tournament win since beating BYU in 1950.
Gilberto Clavell had 23 points and Preston Brown added 13 for 14th-seeded Sam Houston State (25-8), which tied it at 55 on a short floater by Ashton Mitchell with 3:48 to go.
The game remained tied until Quincy Acy dunked to put Baylor ahead for good with 2:30 left.
No. 1 Kentucky 100, No. 16 ETSU 71
NEW ORLEANS — Eric Bledsoe's eight 3-pointers set a Kentucky record for an NCAA tournament game, and the top-seeded Wildcats dominated throughout in a victory over East Tennessee State.
Scoring 29 points in all, Bledsoe started 8 of 8 on 3s before finally missing his first from long range late in the second half and finishing 8 of 9. Still, he surpassed Tony Delk's previous school record of seven 3s in the 1996 championship game against Syracuse.
Patrick Patterson scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, including a handful of dunks, while John Wall added 17 points and 11 assists for the Wildcats (33-2).
Micah Williams had 18 points for No. 16 seed ETSU (20-15), which trailed by as much as 30 in the first half and never threatened in the second.
No. 9 Wake Forest 81, No. 8 Texas 80, OT
NEW ORLEANS — Ishmael Smith's pull-up jumper from about 17 feet out with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime gave ninth-seeded Wake Forest a win over eighth-seeded Texas.
Texas twice rallied from double-digit deficits, then blew an eight-point lead in overtime, completing a puzzling slide after being ranked No. 1 in the country in January.
It was the third game that went to overtime on a wild first day of NCAA action. Last year, two games went to OT in the entire tournament.
The Demon Deacons (20-10) rallied from a 76-68 deficit in the extra session. They still trailed by four in the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Ari Stewart with 15.9 seconds left made it 80-79.
Gary Johnson then missed two free throws for Texas, giving Smith one more chance.
The Demon Deacons advanced to play top-seeded Kentucky in the second round Saturday.
Smith finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and eight turnovers.
No. 11 Washington 80, No. 6 Marquette 78
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Quincy Pondexter drove for a tiebreaking bank shot with 1.7 seconds left, and 11th-seeded Washington extended its remarkable late-season run into the NCAA tournament with a victory over Marquette.
Pondexter scored 18 points and Isaiah Thomas 19 as the Huskies (25-9) won their eighth straight game in dramatic fashion, rallying from a 15-point deficit with 13 minutes left.
Lazar Hayward missed a half-court heave at the buzzer for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (23-11), who didn't make a field goal in the final 4:33.
Marquette's loss completed an ugly 1-3 opening day for the mighty Big East, which put eight teams in the NCAA tournament, most of any conference.
No. 3 New Mexico 62, No. 14 Montana 57
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Roman Martinez had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, and third-seeded New Mexico overcame a shaky start to beat 14th-seeded Montana.
Darington Hobson added 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while playing with a sprained left wrist for the Lobos (30-4), who used a 17-0 run after halftime to briefly break open the game after trailing by a point at the break.
Dairese Gary converted seven free throws over the final 3:36 as New Mexico staved off an upset to continue a special season that began with being picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference.
The Lobos will play Washington in the second round Saturday. New Mexico is trying to win more than one tournament game for the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Brian Qvale had 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies (22-10).
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.