With 7.2 seconds left, Anthony Strickland grabbed a rebound after Karrington Ward’s missed free-throw that would have pulled Eastern Michigan University within a point.
He dribbled, trying to regain control near the out-of-bounds line. Seconds later, the Convocation Center erupted in shock after an out-of-bounds call.
“It could have been a bad call. It could have been our ball,” EMU coach Rob Murphy said. “I did not see it (the call), but it didn’t come down to that.”
After Ohio University guard T.J. Hall missed his free-throw EMU hauled the rebound down court, but center Da’Shonte Riley couldn’t beat the buzzer off a running 20-foot shot attempt, sealing the Bobcats’ 58-56 comeback victory on Saturday.
“It wasn’t Ohio. We beat ourselves tonight,” Murphy said. “We had our opportunities, we squandered it away and we just didn’t get it done today.”
Eight minutes before, the Eagles (11-8, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) were surging with a 13-point lead after Ward hit a free-throw to put his team up 51-38. Ward had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bobcats (14-5, 4-2 MAC) then clamped down offensively, shooting 9-for-13 in the last 7:41.
“We left the door open. Those guys hit some big shots; I give them credit,” Murphy said.
“Ultimately, if we just make our free throws, we’re in position to probably win this game.”
EMU made one free-throw on four attempts in the last five minutes of the game.
A jumper from Bobcats forward Jon Smith cut the Eagles’ lead down to five with 3:14 to play. Forty seconds later, Nick Kellogg’s three-pointer brought the Bobcats within two.
Smith and Kellogg combined for 14 points in the second half.
Forward Maurice Ndour’s jumper with 1:36 left completed the comeback, tying the game at 55.
EMU guard Jalen Ross missed a three-point attempt trying to regain the lead and Ohio took the ball the other way. With 27 seconds on the clock, guard Javarez Willis drained a three-pointer from the right corner to give the Bobcats its first lead of the day at 58-55.
Willis had 12 points, including nine in the second half. All of his points came off three-pointers as he shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Ohio was led offensively by guard Stevie Taylor throughout the entirety of the game. He had 14 points, but fouled out with 4:53 remaining in the game.
EMU had some hot offensive hands as well, including forward Glenn Bryant, who had 14 points off the bench. That total tied the most this season he has had in relief.
“He was very energetic, made some shots,” Murphy said. “He did an incredible job throughout the game.”
The Eagles starting five got going early, too. The team started the game off with a 9-0 run thanks to Strickland, who finished with 4 points all in the first half, and guard Darell Combs, who hit a layup and drew a foul which led to a three-point play.
“We pushed the ball in transition and that’s when we were at our best,” Murphy said.
Riley stuffed a layup attempt by Kellogg with a block and that was followed by a layup from guard Mike Talley to complete the 9-0 run.
Riley totaled nine rebounds, three blocks and two points.
The Eagles took the lead into the locker room at halftime, up 30-22.
Game attendance was recorded at 1,321, the second-highest at the Convocation Center this season.
Eastern Michigan wore a patch to support Akron University’s director of basketball operations Dan Peters, who is battling pancreatic cancer.
Darell Combs started his fourth game in a row after starting the season coming off the bench.
Stevie Taylor led Ohio at the half with nine points, yet had three fouls.
Bryant III had eight of nine EMU points from 17:53 to 13:47 in the second half.
EMU only had one point in the last 4:09 of the game.
The Eagles led for the entire game up until 1:36 left in the second half.
Ohio went from shooting 25.0 percent at three-pointers in the first half to 50.0 percent in the second half.
The Bobcats had a lead for only 27 seconds.
Ward’s double-double was his third of the season.
The Eagles host Bowling Green State University on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Convocation Center for a 7 p.m. tip. After that, they travel to Miami University Saturday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.
Follow Derrick on Twitter @derrickvergo