By Mike Ashcraft
Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- Playing shorthanded once again, the Ohio men's basketball team (6-5) scrapped its way to an 84-65 win over Prairie View A&M (2-10) thanks to a second-half surge on Wednesday (Dec. 20) at the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats found themselves without the services of senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) and sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio), who suffered injuries in Ohio's 99-96 overtime loss at Marshall on Dec. 16.
Forced to mix up its rotation, Ohio struggled in the opening 20 minutes of play on Wednesday, shooting just 33.3 percent (10-of-30) from the field -- including 2-of-9 from three-point range. Coming out of halftime, the Bobcats found themselves down two to the Panthers. Ohio roared to life, however, outscoring Prairie View A&M, 55-34, over the final 20 minutes and shooting 60 percent (15-of-25) from the floor -- including 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from beyond the arc. The Bobcats also knocked down 17 of their 20 free throw attempts in the second half to seal the win. Ohio finished the contest with 19 assists, marking the third time in 2017-18 the Bobcats have dropped at least 19 dimes in a game.
"Elated with the win," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "I think this game underscores how this semester has gone in terms of availability of players and having to lean on guys pretty heavy. We did an excellent job on some really quick guards. We did a good job of angling them and then we did a good job of helping out. We finally had them reach their breaking point."
Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) recorded his second-straight outing with at least 20 points, tallying a team-high 23 off a 6-of-13 shooting effort from the field that included three treys. He also sank eight of his nine free throw attempts. Dartis has now scored 20 or more points in a game three times this season and nine times in his career. He also totaled four assists, a rebound and a block over 35 minutes of work.
"The key thing was our guards getting into the paint and just started making plays, starting knocking down shots," said Dartis of Ohio's second-half effort. "When you're playing in the flow of the game and the energy is on your side and you got the crowd with you and all your guys are playing great, it's a good feeling."
Redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) went a career-best 5-of-9 from the field -- including a career-best 4-of-7 performance from three-point range -- in addition to knocking down all three of his free throw attempts en route to a career-high 17 points. He has finished in double figures in points in three of his last five games. Gollon also notched four rebounds, two assists and a career-high three steals in 29 minutes of work off the bench.
"He came to us as a scoring point guard. I see him as just a straight shooter," said Phillips of Gollon. "He can penetrate, he's got a little more shake to him than you think, but the biggest thing he can provide for us is spacing on the floor and that quick trigger of his. It's just fun to see a kid let his apprehension go and start to play and start to realize his potential.
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) enjoyed another strong all-around performance, scoring 14 points after going 4-of-9 from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out a career-high seven assists in 30 minutes of action.
"He's been a life-saver for us," said Phillips of Kirk. "Our plans changed at point guard last spring, in a hurry, and thankfully he was there. Not only is it the sheer productivity, but his mentality is kind of infectious for this team. He's a junkyard dog, and he gives us a little swagger. The scary thing is everybody sees so many ways in which he can still grow. I can't wait to teach him a few more things."
Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) logged 14 points to finish in double figures for the third game in a row and sixth time this season. He went 5-of-9 from the field. Mickle also grabbed four rebounds and chipped in two steals and an assist over 29 minutes in his second career start. Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) finished with 14 points, five assists and a rebound in 39 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds to finish with double digit boards for the sixth time this season. He also contributed two points and a block in 26 minutes.
The Bobcats struggled to get any momentum going in the first half and never led by more than five points over the first 15-plus minutes of the contest. A pair of free throws by Dartis with 4:56 to go in the half gave Ohio a 26-21 edge, but Prairie View A&M outscored the Bobcats by a 10-3 count over the final 4:38, with junior guard Gary Blackston providing the Panthers with four points.
A three-pointer by junior guard Austin Starr gave Prairie View A&M a 39-36 edge going into the first media timeout of the second half, but Dartis tied it with a three of his own with 15:44 to go and then gave Ohio the lead for good after knocking down three-straight free throws after being fouled while attempting to shoot from beyond the arc. Another trey by Starr with just over nine minutes to play cut Ohio's lead down to three at 55-52, but the Bobcats answered with a 7-0 run that saw all of Ohio's points come from the free throw line. Mickle and Kirk both knocked down a pair of freebies while Gollon sank three in a row after he was fouled while attempting to shoot a three-pointer. A layup by Dartis with just under four minutes remaining put the Bobcats up by double digits for good. A highlight reel dunk by Mickle with just over a minute to go punctuated the gritty win for Ohio.
Dartis scored a game-high 16 points over the final 20 minutes of action while Gollon contributed 15 and Kirk tallied 10.
The Panthers were led by a game-high 24 points by Blackston, who went 10-of-19 from the field. He also added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in 37 minutes. Senior forward Zachary Hamilton recorded 18 points thanks in large part to four treys. He also recorded three rebounds, two blocks and an assist over 29 minutes of work. Senior center JD Wallace recorded a team-high nine rebounds to go along with two points, two blocks and a steal in 29 minutes. Redshirt junior forward Dennis Jones distributed a team-high six assists in addition to scoring five points and recording a rebound over 35 minutes.
Ohio closes out non-conference play for 2017-18 by hosting NAIA memeber Northwestern Ohio on Dec. 29 at the Convo. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.