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Kaminski nails late jumper to give Ohio win over Toledo

Bobcats rally from 15 down, win after giving up 8-point lead

CLEVELAND – Kenny Kaminski hit a jumper with seven seconds left, and Toledo missed two chances to win after that, as Ohio pulled out a 67-66 victory against Toledo in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Bobcats rallied from 15 down in the first half, led by as much as eight in the second half and then saw the Rockets regain the lead in the closing minute.

“Felt pretty Marchy out there,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “Really, really gutty effort.”

James Navigato tied the game at 64 with a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, and Jaaron Simmons turned it over, leading to a fast-break layup for Jonathan Williams for Toledo with 28 seconds remaining.

Simmons came back quickly the other way and threaded a pass to Carter in the post. He was fouled from behind by Steve Taylor Jr., but made just the first of two free throws, leaving Ohio down a point. Taylor, a 48.6 percent free-throw shooter, was fouled on the rebound, and missed on the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Bobcats their chance to win it.

Simmons was cut off on a drive and dished out to the perimeter to Kaminski. He dribbled forward, stopped, and had room to get off a clean look that he knocked down. It was his second game winner this season.

“I wasn't open, and Jordan Lauf stuck with me, he tried to take a charge, and Kenny told me coming out of timeout, he said, ‘If you give me the ball, I'll hit this shot,’” Simmons said. “And he told me that once before at Buffalo, and he obviously didn't lie to me. So once I saw it wasn't open, I pivoted, hit him, and he hit the shot.”

Williams missed strong on a quick shot the other way, and Lauf missed wildly as he hurried to try a putback attempt just before the buzzer.

“Jaaron and I came in three years ago with a dream and we had promised each other that we're going to do everything we possibly can to get this group of guys in the NCAA tournament, and we kind of had some struggles there throughout the game and faced some adversity, but at the end of the day, Jaaron was able to find me the ball, and I was able to make a big shot,” Kaminski said.

Simmons led the Bobcats with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting and had four rebounds, four assists but also five turnovers. Carter scored 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting with 12 rebounds. Kaminski had nine points and three steals.

No. 2 seed Ohio (20-10) advances to the semifinals of the tournament and faces the winner of tonight’s final game between No. 3 Buffalo and No. 6 Kent State.

Williams paced the No. 7 seed Rockets (17-16) with 18 points, Jordan Lauf added 12 points, and Jaelan Sanford scored 11 points with five assists. Taylor Jr. was limited to just nine points, but he had 10 rebounds and five assists.

Lauf missed much of the first half with an injury but returned in the second half, though Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said he doubts if Lauf could have played Friday.

“It would be awfully difficult to win in a semifinal game without that guy because he is above and beyond our definition of a foxhole guy and what we represent in our program,” Kowalczyk said.

The Bobcats turned the game in their favor with a 24-5 run spanning from the final three and a half minutes of the first half to the first four minutes of the second half.

Taylor scored a layup to put the Rockets up 32-17, but Simmons followed with a free throw and then a layup, and Jordan Dartis knocked down a jumper to make it a 10-point game. Mike Laster matched a Williams 3-pointer with one of his own, and after a Williams layup, Simmons hit two foul shots and Carter scored a putback just before the first-half clock expired to make it 37-29.

Ohio then scored the first 12 points of the second half, beginning with a Dartis layup. Simmons had back-to-back layups, and a Carter basket off a Simmons assist tied the game. Carter scored on a putback and then threw down a dunk to give the Bobcats a 41-37 lead at the 16:14 mark.

“We got awfully stagnant to start the second half and did too much standing around and got to the shot clock on too many occasions,” Kowalczyk said. “But part of it was because we didn't get transition from stops to start the second half.”

Later, Laster and Kaminski hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Ohio its biggest lead, 50-42, with 10:52 to go. Toledo tied it at 58 on a Lauf layup, but Simmons answered with one of his own, and after a Taylor free throw, the lead went back and forth the rest of the way between one and three points until Navigato’s tying 3-pointer in the final minute.

Beginning with a Williams 3-pointer, Toledo led the entire first half as Ohio struggled offensively for much of the first half. A 10-0 Rockets run, capped by a Luke Knapke 3-pointer, put them ahead 26-11 with 7:15 to go in the first half.

After shooting just 36.4 percent in the first half, the Bobcats connected on 58.6 percent of their shots in the second half. They never did find their stroke from deep, going just 5 of 22, and free throws were minimal – just 4 of 8.

Toledo’s percentages were the inverse of Ohio’s – 52.0 percent in the first half and 34.4 percent in the second half. The Rockets were much better from long range, going 11 of 26, and they were 7 of 11 at the foul line.

Toledo also had 16 turnovers, including 10 in the second half, while Ohio had just eight in the game. Both teams had seven offensive rebounds. The Bobcats scored 40 points in the paint to just 20 by the Rockets and had an 11-2 advantage in fast-break points.

“We talked about the 3s aren't falling right now, so let's get a couple inside,” Phillips said. “And the ways we score inside are either off the screen or roll or (Carter) posting up.”

The first semifinal, featuring No. 1 Akron and No. 4 Ball State, is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. Ohio’s semifinal will follow at about 8 p.m.

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