ATHENS, Ohio -- For the third year in a row, the Ohio men's basketball team (5-4) renews its rivalry with longtime nemesis Marshall (7-3) as the two programs face off in a Saturday (Dec. 16) grudge match at Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, W. Va. The contest is slated to get underway at 8 p.m. ET.
Saturday's game will be streamed live on Conference USA TV. The contest will also be broadcast on the Ohio IMG Sports Network, with 'Voice of the Bobcats' Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius on the call. Radio pregame coverage is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET with 'Countdown To Tipoff.'
BOBCATS HANG ON TO TOP WESTERN KENTUCKY
The Bobcats withstood a late charge from Western Kentucky (6-3) to earn an 89-84 triumph on Sunday (Dec. 10) at the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats earned their first win over the Hilltoppers since recording a 65-42 victory in Athens in the 1945-46 campaign. Ohio improved to 2-4 all-time against Western Kentucky, which received votes in last week's Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
CASHING IN FROM THE FREE THROW LINE
Ohio emerged victorious over the Hilltoppers thanks in large part to a season-best 31-of-35 (88.6 percent) shooting effort from the free throw line. Ohio's 31 made free throws marked the program's most since the Bobcats recorded 33 in a 79-71 win over Mid-American Conference West Division foe Eastern Michigan on Feb. 14, 2017, in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Heading into Sunday's clash with Western Kentucky, the Bobcats ranked eighth among MAC teams and 153rd nationally at the free throw line with a 71.2 percent success rate. After Sunday's 31-of-35 display, Ohio now ranks fourth among conference teams and 63rd nationally with a 74.5 percent free throw percentage.
Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) is looking to make his final season as a Bobcat his best yet, and he's off to a good start. Laster is averaging 16.7 points per game to lead the team and is shooting 50.4 percent (61-of-121) from the field to rank second on the squad.
Laster turned in his fourth game of the 2017-18 season with at least 20 points in the win over Western Kentucky. He led Ohio with a 23-point effort, going 8-of-11 from the field -- including 2-of-3 from three-point range -- en route to finishing in double figures for the sixth game in a row. Laster has now led Ohio in scoring a team-high six times.
Between Nov. 19-28, Laster tallied three-straight games with at least 20 points, making him the first Bobcat to achieve such a feat since 2015-16. His 25-point effort in a 96-94 quadruple overtime win over Indiana State on Nov. 19 in the seventh-place game of the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic represented a career high.
Over his last 27 games, Laster is averaging 10.6 points per game and is shooting 53.2 percent (107-of-205) from the field.
Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) has proven to be a valuable addition to the Ohio rotation since joining the program upon earning his bachelor's degree in communications from Florida Gulf Coast after playing for the Eagles for two seasons.
Mickle currently ranks fifth on the team with 9.7 points per game and is shooting a team-best 54.3 percent (25-of-46) from the floor. He set a career high with 17 points in his first career start as a Bobcat in Sunday's win over Western Kentucky.
Mickle has reached double figures in points four times in nine games for Ohio in 2017-18. In 63 games at Florida Gulf Coast, he reached double digits just three times.
ROOKIE PLAYING LIKE A VET
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) has impressed through his first nine games as a Bobcat. Starting at point guard in every contest, he is averaging 14.0 points per game to rank second on the team and is shooting 45.0 percent (45-of-100) from the field. He was the lone Bobcat to tally double-digit points the first six contests of the year. He is also averaging 3.2 assists to tie for the team lead in addition to leading the team with 1.3 steals per game. and ranking second with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Kirk nearly achieved his first career double-double in the victory over Western Kentucky, finishing with 17 points, a career-high nine rebounds and two assists and a steal in 36 minutes. He sank a career-best 9-of-11 free throw attempts.
Kirk continued the strong start to his freshman campaign in a 96-77 win over Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 24 at the Convo, tallying a career-high 20 points for the second game in a row to tie for the team lead. He shot 7-of-14 from the floor -- including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc -- in addition to sinking four his five free throw attempts. He also matched his career high with six assists to tie for the team lead.
Ohio beat Alabama A&M, 61-53, in the 2017-18 season opener on Nov. 11 at the Convo behind a game-high 16 points from Kirk in his debut for the Bobcats. At the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C., Kirk notched 10 points, a game-high six assists, four rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes against Clemson (Nov. 16), then logged 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal over 27 minutes against Dayton (Nov. 17) in the Charleston Classic. He saved his best for last in Charleston with a 20-point effort that saw him score a combined 12 points over the final three overtimes to help the Bobcats clinch the win in quadruple overtime over Indiana State.
CARTER RETURNS FROM INJURY
Ohio's frontcourt has received a boost over the last two games with the return of sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio), who missed the first seven contests of the 2017-18 season with a lower leg injury. Carter reached double figures in points for the first time this season with 12 in the win over Western Kentucky, thanks in large part to an 8-of-10 shooting performance from the free throw line. He also chipped in a season-high five rebounds and three assists as well as two steals over 19 minutes of action off of the bench.
A 2017-18 Preseason All-Mid-American Conference East Division Team selection, Carter received All-MAC Freshman Team selection in 2016-17 after playing in all 31 games and starting the final 15 contests. He logged 306 points (9.9 per game) to rank fourth on the team, 202 rebounds (6.5 per game) to lead the team, 20 blocks (0.6 per game) to rank second on the team, 20 steals (0.6 per game) to rank fifth on the team and 18 assists (0.6 per game) over 643 minutes (20.7 per game) to rank fifth on the team. Carter shot 50.9 percent (115-of-226) from the field to rank fourth on the team. He finished in double figures in points 13 times -- including recording 20 or more points three times -- and double figures in rebounds six times. Carter achieved six double-doubles to tie for the team lead and led the team in scoring six times and rebounding a team-high 15 times.
GOLLON GETTING HOT
Over the last six contests, redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) has averaged 8.3 points per game off the bench for Ohio. He totaled a career-high 13 points in 22 minutes off of the bench in Sunday's victory over Western Kentucky after going 4-of-7 from the floor with a career-high three three-pointers.
SCOUTING THE THUNDERING HERD
Marshall has won seven of its first 10 games to begin the 2017-18 campaign -- including a 93-87 win at Toledo on Dec. 9. The Thundering Herd have knocked off two MAC foes in the last three games, posting an 86-64 win over Akron on Dec. 2 in Huntington.
The Thundering Herd is in its third season under the leadership of Dan D'Antoni. Marshall won 20 games last year -- including 10 in Conference USA play. The Thundering Herd were picked to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll.
Marshall is one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the country, ranking first among Conference USA squads and 14th nationally by averaging 89.3 points per game. The Thundering Herd are converting at an 82.7 percent success rate from the floor, which is tops among Conference USA teams and 52nd nationally. Marshall's +3.4 turnover margin ranks 52nd in the nation. Conversely, Marshall is surrendering 82.7 points per game, which ranks 329th in the country, and is allowing the opposition to make 42.4 percent of its three-point attempts, which ranks 345th in the nation.
Marshall is led by junior guard Jon Elmore, who averages a team-high 24.6 points per game to rank third in the country. Junior guard C.J. Burks is averaging 18.5 points per game. Junior forward Ajdin Penava nearly averages a double-double with 17.7 points and team-high 9.4 rebounds per game, with the latter ranking 45th in the nation. He is shooting a whopping 63.7 percent from the field, which is good for 26th in the country, and is leading the nation with 4.4 blocks per game. Freshman guard Jarrod West is Marshall's top three-point shooter, sinking 48.1 percent of his tries to rank 33rd in the country. He averages 11.9 points per game.
Saturday's game will mark the 103rd meeting between Ohio and Marshall -- two former MAC rivals. The Bobcats and the Thundering Herd have met each of the last two seasons, with Ohio prevailing, 85-70, on Dec. 1, 2015, in Athens, and Marshall bouncing back with a 98-88 victory in Huntington on Nov. 30, 2016. In last year's matchup, Dartis drained four treys and sank four of his five tries from the charity stripe to finish with 16 points. He also hauled in a career-high seven rebounds. All five of Marshall's starters finished in double figures in points, with junior guard Jon Elmore leading the Thundering Herd with 28 points -- 13 of which came from the charity stripe. Three of his six made field goals came from beyond the arc. He also distributed a team-high five assists and notched seven rebounds, two steals and a block over 38 minutes.
The Bobcats' last win in Huntington came on Nov. 30, 2011 -- a 70-68 triumph.
Ohio is 61-52 (.540) against current Conference USA members.
Ohio plays host to the first of two games to close out 2017-18 non-conference play at the Convocation Center as the Bobcats welcome Prairie View A&M next Wednesday (Dec. 20). The contest is scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m. ET.