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Ohio edges Akron to take MAC title

Mar 11, 2012 - 7:19 AM Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - D.J. Cooper scored a game-high 23 points as Ohio held on to defeat Akron, 64-63, and take the Mid-American Conference title on Saturday.

Cooper added six assists and four steals for Ohio (27-7), which got nine points apiece from Ivo Baltic and Nick Kellogg. Reggie Keely and T.J. Hall each netted eight points as the Bobcats improved to 6-1 all-time in MAC finals.

"They're well coached and it seems like every time we play them it's a battle," Ohio head coach John Groce said about Akron. "We were fortunate to come out on the winning end. It could have gone either way."

Alex Abreu paced Akron (22-11) with 19 points and seven assists. Quincy Diggs added 12 points and Brian Walsh finished with 10 for the Zips, who were appearing in their sixth straight title game.

Akron held a 29-28 lead at the break and added to its lead when Walsh and Chauncey Gilliam opened the second half with three-pointers around three foul shots by Cooper, but Ohio responded with a 10-0 run to jump out to a 41-35 advantage.

Diggs put an end to the spurt with another trey, and the Zips stayed within two possessions over the next seven-plus minutes until Cooper converted on a layup before drilling a shot from beyond the arc for a 59-52 Ohio lead with a little over four minutes left in the game.

After Baltic's trey put the Bobcats ahead 62-54 about a minute later, Akron reeled off seven straight points to close the gap to one on Zeke Marshall's reverse layup with under two minutes to play.

Cooper was fouled on the other end, but he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the ball back to Akron for the potential go-ahead basket.

Abreu, though, was called for a charge on the Zips ensuing possession to give the ball back to Ohio.

However, he quickly made amends by ripping the ball out of the hands of Walter Offutt on the other end. Coming out of a timeout with 32.7 seconds left, Walsh's long two-pointer went in-and-out, resulting in Keely's two foul shots for a 64-61 advantage with 6.2 showing on the clock.

Ohio opted to foul Abreu on Akron's next possession. He made his first free throw before trying to miss the second, but the ball bounced around the rim before falling through to make it 64-63 with 3.1 left in the game.

Cooper was quickly fouled on the inbounds pass and intentionally missed his second foul shot as Akron had no timeouts left. Diggs could not get a desperate half-court shot off before the buzzer sounded to give Ohio the win.

"I thought both teams played pretty well and kind of slugged it out. I just think the ball bounced their way when it mattered," Akron head coach Keith Dambrot said.

After an early 10-6 run by Ohio put the Bobcats ahead, 14-8, nearly seven minutes into the first quarter, Abreu, Walsh and Diggs each connected from beyond the arc in a 9-1 spurt that put Akron on top, 17-15.

The remainder of the first half saw three ties, two lead changes and neither team take a lead larger than three points en route to a 29-28 Akron advantage at the break.

Game Notes

Ohio leads the all-time series between the teams, 35-31, and improved to 3-0 against Akron in the MAC Tournament...Akron made 9-of-12 three-point attempts in the game, while Ohio went 9-for-21 from beyond the arc...Ohio made 9-of-16 free throws...Akron went 14-for-18 from the charity stripe.