By Mike Ashcraft
Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- Four Bobcats finished in double figures, but the Ohio men's basketball team (8-7, 1-2 MAC) could not withstand a second-half charge from Mid-American Conference West Division foe Ball State (11-5, 2-1 MAC), suffering a 75-68 setback on Tuesday (Jan. 9) at the Convocation Center.
The loss snapped an eight-game series winning streak for the Bobcats against the Cardinals.
Ohio was held to 37.7 percent (23-of-61) despite making 44.4 percent (8-of-18) of its looks from behind the arc. Ball State converted at a 50 percent (28-of-56) rate from the field -- which tied for the best shooting performance by a Bobcat opponent this season. Ohio went 82.4 percent (14-of-17) from the free throw line, but the three misses came late in the second half when the Bobcats needed points.
"I thought we did a reasonable job defensively, save some sloppy close outs in the second half," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "But, that's a pretty good offensive team, and I really thought we generated enough good looks to win the way we defended tonight. We just needed to finish better."
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) led all scorers with 17 points, thanks in large part to sinking a career-high 10 free throws. He finished in double figures in points for a team-high 13th time this year. Kirk also compiled four rebounds, three assists to tie for the team lead, two steals and a block in 31 minutes. Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) recorded 13 points to reach double figures for the 11th-straight game he has played in. He also notched three rebounds and three assists over 38 minutes. Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) went 5-of-8 from the field -- including 3-of-4 from three-point range -- to finish with 13 points. He also chipped in two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 31 minutes. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) provided 10 points off of the bench in addition to hauling in six rebounds and tallying two steals in 23 minutes of work. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) recorded eight points, seven rebounds to match junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) for the team and a block in 19 minutes.
"Staying locked in for 40 minutes, man," said Dartis of the loss. "Can't really say much more than that. You'll see we'll be locked in for certain points. And then you'll see little breakdowns here and there. We just have to have a better focus for 40 minutes."
Junior center Trey Moses achieved a double-double to lead the way for Ball State, scoring 16 points off of 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and 6-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe and pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds. He also distributed a game-high four assists and had a steal in 30 minutes of action. Redshirt junior guard Tayler Persons went 7-of-11 from the field en route to 16 points. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 29 minutes. Sophomore forward Kyle Mallers shot 5-of-8 from the field -- including 3-of-6 from distance -- en route to 14 points. He also chipped in three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 29 minutes before fouling out. Senior guard Jeremie Tyler went 5-of-10 from the floor with treys to score 13 points off of the bench. He also recorded three assists, a rebound, a block and a steal in 26 minutes of work.
Redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) hit a three at the buzzer off an assist from Block to give the Bobcats a 31-29 edge going into halftime. Ohio shot 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from beyond the arc over the opening 20 minutes. Laster led the charge for the Bobcats, leading all scorers with 11 points off of 4-of-9 shooting -- including a 3-of-4 effort from deep. The Bobcats jumped out to a 10-4 lead with just under 16 minutes left in the first half thanks in large part to triples by Dartis and Laster. Ball State outscored Ohio by a 20-10 count over the ensuing 10:56, though, to take a half-high four-point lead at 24-20 with just under five minutes to go. Back-to-back triples by Laster put the Bobcats back in the lead, but a jumper by Persons and an and-one layup by redshirt sophomore Tahjai Teague with less than three minutes to go put the Cardinals back in command by three. Mickle shaved Ball State's edge down to one with just under two minutes left when he knocked down a jumper. Ohio held Ball State scoreless over the final 2:55, setting Gollon up for the go-ahead three as time expired in the opening half.
Ohio's lead swelled to a game-high eight points with 17:35 to go when Kirk made a layup to make it a 37-29 advantage for the Bobcats. Mallers kept Ball State in it, though, sinking a triple just over a minute later and then completing a conventional three-point play with just over 15 minutes remaining to cut the Cardinals' deficit down to three at 41-38. Kirk made a layup on Ohio's next possession, but it marked the last points the Bobcats scored over the ensuing 2:49 as Ball State went on a 12-0 run that was powered by three-pointers by Tyler and Mallers. Kirk stopped the bleeding when he made a pair of free throws with just under 12 minutes to play to cut Ball State's lead down to five at 50-45. Kirk's pair of freebies sparked a 10-7 run for Ohio over the next 4:35 that saw the Bobcats twice shave the Cardinals' edge down to two, with a dunk by Laster making it a 57-55 ballgame with 7:16 to go. That's as close as the Bobcats got, though, as Ball State cashed in on a pair of three-pointers by Tyler and six points by Moses in the final 6:58 to grab the victory.
"I want to be clear this is a frustration I feel with my team because I see them do the things that can put them in position to win," said Phillips. "And to not have them make the plays to allow us to collect that win on a night where effort and execution aren't lacking. Finishing is lacking. We haven't finished well all year. We haven't been a good finishing team."
"We haven't finished well all year. We haven't been a good finishing team.
Ohio hits the road for the second time in conference play on Friday (Jan. 12) when it visits MAC East Division rival Kent State (7-9, 1-2 MAC) for a 7 p.m. ET showdown at the M.A.C. Center. The contest will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.