Game 091:(4) Ohio 63, (1) Miami (Oh.) 56 Mid-American Semifinals Friday, March 11, 2005 Gund Arena - Cleveland, OH
The scoreboard flashed 26-24. After a surprisingly thin-blooded display by both teams in the first half of the first MAC semifinal, both the heavily-favored Miami (Oh.) RedHawks and the underdog Ohio University Bobcats shuffled off to their respective locker rooms, off for some quick X-and-O sessions, trying to figure out ways to start scoring points.
But a game that had yet to find its rhythm was about to get a whole lot of it. And now, please welcome the Ohio dance team!
When the players clear the floor and the dance teams take over, it's generally a cue to gather strength for an eight-minute wait in the concession line. At least 10 of the squads I've come across in my travels have used the same exact "Mary, Mary -> Tricky -> Ice Ice Baby -> Baby Got Back" medley with the same exact cookie-cutter lite hip-hop choreography. So halftime can also be a subtle nudge towards swearing off college hoops forever, an invitation to just go home and wait for baseball season to start.
But there would be no tired old-school megamix on this night. The glistening downward keyboard figure that opens Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" came cascading down from the overhead speaker system. What followed was a note-by-note, move-by-move rendition of the penultimate scene from the film Napoleon Dynamite, winner of the Oscar® for Best Picture in 2004*. It was the sweet dance routine performed by the titular hero of the film, the "skit" that swung the student-body presidential election away from stuck-up princess Summer. It ensured a win for Pedro, the world-weary underdog, because the ringer T-shirt alone wasn't going to cut it.
And you know this boogie was for real. Every awkward foot-shuffle, every geeky lunge, every D-Kwon's Dance Groove was carefully and faithfully reenacted there by the young lovelies of Ohio University. The routine was wildly applauded - from the OU season ticket holders who'd seen it before, to the bewildered alums who required lengthy explanations, to the impartial observers in the end sections.
The effects of this were not immediately apparent on the court - after all, the players had been in the locker room the whole time. Miami made their halftime adjustments, came out of the break on a tear. The RedHawks held the Bobcats in check with a "no driving the lane" policy and lockdown perimeter defense, and had a seven-point lead after 10 minutes, and the Oxfordians appeared poised to slam the door shut on their bitter rivals from Athens.
But then, in the game's final quarter, the Ohio University Bobcats... well, let's just say they came and got their ham.
I feel the thunder, see the lightning I know this anger's heaven sent So I've got to hang out all my hang-ups Because of the boogie I feel so hell-bent
With the fearsome grace and agility of a liger (like a lion and a tiger mixed), sophomore forward Sonny Troutman drilled a three-pointer to cut a Miami lead in half. And then he hit two more in rapid succession - it was if Troutman was telling his teammates, "There's a lot more where this came from if you go to the Dance with me."
It's just an instant gut reaction (that I got) I know I never ever felt like this before
Miami's final stand came when big Nathan Peavy slammed home a dunk with six minutes left, a basket that put the RedHawks up by five. But junior guard Mychal Green, who played the first half as if he had been chatting online with babes all day, finally put his training as a cage fighter to good use. He whirled around a screen to get free ,and hit a shot from beyond the arc... it was a Sledgehammer. A stop, then a tie, and Miami would never see the lead again.
I don't know what to do, but then that's nothing new, Stuck between hell and high water I need a cure to make it through, oh...
During the Bobcat run (a 16-piece set), Ohio used the buddy system. No more flying solo. Watching each other's backs at all times, the Bobcats unraveled the RedHawk defense and scored at will. Jeremy Fears, the freshman point guard, hit three jump shots as he showed the strength of a grizzly, the reflexes of a puma, and the wisdom of a man.
Dance! Nothing left for me to do but... Dance!
The green and white-clad crowd behind the Bobcat bench erupted. With a berth in the conference finals just minutes away, I guess you could have said things were gettin' pretty serious.
Off these bad times I'm going through, just dance!
The Miami RedHawks fans, forced to get out of the Bobcats' lives and shut up, began heading for the exits. Those that remained put their hands over their faces, perhaps imagining they were weightless, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by tiny little seahorses.
Got canned heat in my heels tonight! Bay! Buh!
And when it was all said and done, the Ohio University Bobcats were on their way to the title game... where all their wildest dreams would come true.
* So it didn't really win Best Picture, but it's my site and I can say anything I want to! Gosh!