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Ohio's NCAA hopes ended with 65-46 loss to Akron

Saturday - 3/16/2013, 11:02pm  ET

Akron's Brian Walsh, right, drives past Ohio's D.J. Cooper during the first half of an NCAA college championship basketball game in the Mid-American Conference tournament on Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- D.J. Cooper didn't make a single shot. He didn't make any excuses, either.

Ohio's star guard, the Mid-American Conference's Player of the Year, missed all eight shots from the field and had one of the worst games of a brilliant four-year career Saturday night as the Bobcats were beaten 65-46 by Akron in the MAC championship.

Cooper was knocked off his game by a swarming Akron defense that held the Bobcats (24-9) to 19 percent shooting and just 17 points in the second half.

"It's definitely unacceptable," said Cooper, who finished with three points and five turnovers. "I apologize to my teammates. There's no excuse. It's one of those things. The ball didn't fall."

The Zips (26-6), who a week ago were reeling following the suspension of starting guard Alex Abreu on drug trafficking charges, won their third title in five years and the league's automatic NCAA bid. It was a remarkable turn of events for an Akron team that nearly had its special season crash with a week to go.

"This is just an unbelievable tribute to our players," Zips coach Keith Dambrot said. "It's unreal just how everybody in our program was. It was a total team effort from our trainer to our strength coach to our athletic director to our sports psychologist to our secretary. It's unreal just how everybody in our program was.

"We have a group of people who take care of one and other. That's why we got through it."

For Ohio, the loss ended any chance of a second straight trip to the NCAAs. Last year, the Bobcats became a mid-major darling when they beat Michigan and South Florida -- and nearly upset North Carolina. With all of their key players returning, they figured to get back again, but Akron stopped them one victory short.

"It was a game of two halves," said Ohio coach Jim Christian. "In the first half we shot 48 percent, guarded really, really well and played hard. In the second half we played hard, but we just couldn't make a shot."

Demetrius Treadwell scored 13 points with 10 rebounds and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. Chauncey Gilliam also scored 13 points, Nick Harney had 11 and Zeke Marshall 10 with nine rebounds.

Reggie Keely scored 19 points to lead Ohio, which opened the game 11 of 17 from the floor but went just 7 of 37 the rest of the way. The Bobcats led the MAC in scoring and field-goal percentage, but were taken out of their game and forced into taking bad shots.

"It's very disappointing," Cooper said. "Nobody ever picked us to go out like this. It's difficult. For me personally, I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this."

Cooper was bottled up all night. The only Division I player to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in his career, he never got going and was taken out in the final three minutes with the game out of reach.

"D.J. is such a great player," Christian said. "Let's face it. When he doesn't play well, it's hard for us to score."

Cooper scored his first points on two free throws after Treadwell, who wore orange polka-dot socks and red sneakers for the final, was called for a technical with 17:37 left. The shots gave Ohio the lead, but the technical seemed to fire up the Zips, who got a basket inside from Treadwell and went on a 9-0 run to open a 40-33 lead on freshman Carmelo Betancourt's steal and layup.

"I felt like it picked me up about four or five notches and it got our team cranked up, too," Treadwell said of the technical for arguing after a call. "It got us all into the game."

Moments before the second half started, Treadwell and Cooper exchanged words near midcourt.

"I was telling him we're going to win this trophy right here," Treadwell said, pointing to the MAC title trophy sitting on the dais.

Their NCAA dreams dashed by Akron's defense, Cooper and the Bobcats are expected to receive an NIT bid. Not nearly what they wanted, but at least they'll get to play again.

"The NCAA tournament was our ultimate goal," Cooper said, "but it's a blessing to be out there to play ball, especially for the seniors. I'm going to cherish it regardless."

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