ATHENS, Ohio– A three-pointer by senior guard/forward Gavin Block with 39 seconds left and 16 second-half points from redshirt sophomore forward Jason Carter helped the Ohio men's basketball team (11-8, 3-4 MAC) overcome a hot shooting Ball State team (11-9, 2-5 MAC), downing the Cardinals, 78-74, Saturday afternoon (Jan. 26) inside the Convocation Center.
"That was just a really good college basketball game with two pretty good teams trading blows," fifth year head coach Saul Phillips said. "We beat them in Muncie; they clearly did not have their best night and that had something to do with us winning. Tonight, I thought they played very, very well. They had timely, big shots—I can't say enough about the big shots that Gavin made and the way we tightened up on defense in the final stretch there. Jason, coming out of the locker room after halftime, I bumped into him as he left the locker room and said 'what can I do to get you more involved? You only had two shots." And he said, "No, we're doing the right stuff I just have to get more aggressive and the first media he had 10 points, so that's pretty good response by him. Another kind of hidden gem in this game—obviously Jay was extremely poised running the show down the stretch, just really creating for everybody—but TK, the job he did on Persons, that's generally been Antonio's role this year, but I just felt tonight that TK was having a little more success against him even when Antonio went back in the game we slid him over to someone else and let TK roll on a very good guard for a little while. Again, staying locked in, out turnover numbers have been down recently, our shooting has been up, I like the direction this is heading right now."
Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) led the Bobcats with 16 points, all in the second half, going 6-of-13 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free throw line. He grabbed six rebounds, dished out four assists and had a season-high three blocks. Block (Lincoln, Ill.) finished the game with 15 points, going 5-of-10 from the field, 3-of-7 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. Junior guard Antonio Cowart, Jr.(McComb, Miss.) finished with 11 points, going 4-of-7 from the field, 3-of-5 from three-point range, while grabbing four rebounds and one block. Freshman guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished with 10 points, going 5-of-8 from the field and registering two steals. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) finished the game with seven points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Ball State opened the game with the first points, a three-pointer to give the Cardinals their first lead of the day. A layup from senior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) would get the Bobcats on the board and then back-to-back layups from Kirk and Block and a three from Cowart, Jr. would out the Bobcats up 9-5 at the 15:56 mark. Ball State would bring the game within one with a three of their own, but Vander Plas would put Ohio up 11-8 with a driving layup.
A free throw from Ball State would give Ball State a 12-11 lead, however Cowart, Jr. would follow that up immediately with another three-pointer, giving Ohio a 14-12 lead. The Bobcats and Cardinals would trade baskets over the next few minutes until Ball State would go on an 8-0 run to take a 29-21 lead with 4:12 to go in the half.
The Bobcats would battle back over the remaining minutes of the half, with Cowart, Jr. draining another three to bring Ohio within four with 44 seconds left. However, Ball State's Tayler Persons would hit a three of his own with one second left to send the teams to the locker rooms with Ball State leading, 37-30.
At the half, Ohio shot 39.0 percent from the field, 29 percent from three-point range and did not make the one free throw that they took. Meanwhile, Ball State shot 45 percent from the field, 63 percent from three-point range and 67 percent from the free throw line. The Bobcats were out-rebounded 22-17, while the Bobcats dished out five assists, had three steals and three blocks, compared to Ball State's seven assists, four steals and three blocks.
Ball State would open the half with the first points, taking a nine-point lead within a minute. However, after a Carter steal and dunk, the Bobcats would go on a 14-0 run over the next four and a half minutes, capped by a second-chance dunk from Taylor, giving the Bobcats a 45-41 lead with 15:04 left in the game. After Ball State would go on to tie the game up at 45-45, two free throws from Block would put the Bobcats up, 51-47, with 12:36 to go.
The Bobcats and Cardinals would start trading buckets again, however a three-pointer from Trey Moses would put Ball State up 65-61 with just under eight minutes to play. A three from Block would momentarily give Ohio the lead back, however, a matching shot from Ball State would put the Cardinals back up by one. A minute later, the same sequence would occur, with Block hitting a three only to be followed up by another Ball State bucket. However, the Cardinals would connect on a layup, taking a 72-69 lead with under six minutes to play.
With 2:53 left, Carter would give Ohio the lead with a layup, which would be matched by a jumper from Ball State, giving the Cardinals a 74-73 lead. After a couple defensive stops on both ends of the court, the Bobcats would set up Block perfectly, when with 39 seconds to go, Block would drain his third three of the night, giving Ohio a 76-74 lead. Sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) would hit two free throws down the final seconds, securing the 78-74 victory for the Bobcats and the season sweep of the Cardinals.
"It was one of my biggest ones," Block said. "I think I hit one in Charleston last year versus Indiana State; it was definitely up there," said Block. "I started out in the far corner, someone got downhill, hit Ben on the wing, Ben shot-faked and took one dribble, hit Jason on top of the key, Jason got in there and played off too. My guys just left me and I did a little roller-place at the top of the key and then I saw Kyle Mallers flying at me, so I took a little side-step and let her fly."
Overall, the Bobcats registered a 46.3 percent (31-of-67) field goal percentage, hit 29.2 percent (7-of-24) of their three-point shots and 56.3 percent (9-of-16) of their free throws. As a team, Ohio secured 14 assists and 37 rebounds, falling neck and neck with Ball State. The Bobcats compiled eight steals and five blocks compared to Ball State's eight and three, respectively.
Ball State finished just ahead of Ohio with a 47.5 percent (29-of-61) field goal percentage, sinking significantly more three-point shots at 55.6 percent (10-of-18) and hitting 75.0 percent (6-of-8) of their free throws. The Cardinals only earned seven second-chance points, paling in comparison to Ohio's 18, and allowed 23 Ohio turnovers. Individually, Persons finished with a game-high 21 points, going 9-of-16 from the field and 3-of-7 from three-point range, while Mallers and K.J. Walton finished with 10 points each.
Up next, the Bobcats head to Dekalb, Ill. On Tuesday, Jan. 29 when the Bobcats take on Northern Illinois. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the NIU Convocation Center.