Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Hunter drops in buzzer-beater as Bobcats advance



By Casey Laughman
The Associated Press

With time running out in their first-round Mid-American tournament game against Akron, the Ohio Bobcats had a simple plan: Let Brandon Hunter win it.

It worked, but not exactly the way it was drawn up.

Hunter scored 20 points and put back Steve Esterkamp's missed jumper at the buzzer to lead the Bobcats (13-15) over Akron 79-77 Monday night.

"We were really trying to get the ball to Brandon on a post-up inside, and it really wasn't available, so Steve did what he should do," Ohio coach Tim O'Shea said. "He took the ball, took a shot and Brandon put it in."

John Hollingsworth hit a 3-pointer for Akron (14-14) to tie it 77-77 with 20 seconds left. Esterkamp, who finished with 25 points, took a fade-away jumper that fell short and Hunter grabbed it and laid it in.

Akron led by as many as 11 in the second half and was up 69-62 with 4:50 remaining. Ohio responded with a 13-2 run to take a 75-71 lead with 1:11 to go.

The Zips hit two 3-pointers in 42 seconds to tie it, but left Ohio enough time for a game-winning shot.

O'Shea didn't want to return the favor.

"They were in a 1-3-1 zone and we wanted to make sure we took the last shot," O'Shea said. "I didn't want to give them a chance to win the game."

Jeff Halbert had 19 points and nine rebounds for Ohio. Derrick Tarver led the Zips with 22 points. Darryl Peterson and Hollingsworth each scored 15.

In the other first-round games, Northern Illinois beat Buffalo 81-64; Western Michigan never trailed in a 78-64 victory over Toledo; Bowling Green knocked off Ball State, 90-81; and Marshall beat Eastern Michigan 83-75.

In Thursday's quarterfinals, No. 7 seed Marshall (14-14) plays No. 2 Kent State (19-8) at noon; No. 11 Ohio faces No. 3 Miami (Ohio) at 2 p.m.; No. 9 Bowling Green (13-15) takes on No. 1 Central Michigan (21-6, 14-4) at 7 p.m.; and No. 4 Northern Illinois (16-13) plays No. 5 Western Michigan (19-9) at 9 p.m.

P.J. Smith scored 22 points and Marcus Smallwood had 14 as Northern Illinois beat Buffalo on Monday.

The Huskies took a two-point lead into halftime, but shot 64 percent in the second half and outscored the Bulls (5-23) 43-28. Mike Morrison scored 10 points and Smallwood had a game-high 12 rebounds.

Jason Bird had 13 points and Roderick Middleton made 12 for Buffalo.

Anthony Kann scored 18 points and had a game-high 14 rebounds as Western Michigan beat Toledo (13-16).

Western advances to the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. Toledo was eliminated in the first round for the first time since 1999.

Mike Williams scored 16 points for Western and Bobby Madison and Robby Collum each scored 11.

Toledo's Keith Triplett scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, but was whistled for a technical foul as the Rockets desperately tried to come back late in the game. Nick Moore scored 13 for Toledo.

Ron Lewis scored 28 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead Bowling Green over Ball State.

Kevin Netter had 19 and John Reimold added 10 points for the Falcons.

Bowling Green shot 52.4 percent for the game, compared to 35.6 percent for Ball State (13-17).

Robert Owens led the Cardinals with 28 points. Chris Williams had 24 points, and Matt McCollom added 10 for Ball State.

Ronald Blackshear had 30 points and Monty Wright scored 14 of his 18 down the stretch as Marshall beat Eastern Michigan.

Eastern Michigan led 55-48 with nine minutes left, but made just one field goal over the next seven minutes.

Wright started a 22-6 run with a pair of free throws as the Herd took command, 70-61, with 1:40 left.

Blackshear and Wright combined to hit 15-of-17 free throws in the final nine minutes.

David Anderson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Marshall.

Steve Pettyjohn led the Eagles (14-14) with 16 points. JaQuan Hart scored 11 of his 15 points in the final 1:23. Ryan Prillman had 12 points, Markus Austin scored 10 and Michael Ross had 11 assists.

MAC Tournament

First Round

Monday, March 10

Bowling Green 90, Ball State 81

Western Michigan 78, Toledo 64

Ohio 79, Akron 77

Marshall 83, Eastern Michigan 75

Northern Illinois 81, Buffalo 64

At Gund Arena

Cleveland

Quarterfinals

Thursday, March 13

Kent State vs. Marshall, Noon

Miami vs. Ohio, 2:30 p.m.

Central Michigan vs. Bowling Green, 7 p.m.

Northern Illinois vs. Western Michigan, 9:30 p.m.

Semifinals

Friday, March 14

Bowling Green-Central Michigan winner vs. Northern Illinois-W. Michigan winner, 6:30 p.m.

Marshall-Kent St. winner vs. Ohio-Miami winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 15

Championship

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.




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