ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio men's basketball team (8-9, 1-4 MAC) is set to hit the road again, this time for a trip to Ypsilanti, Mich., to face off with Mid-American Conference West Division foe Eastern Michigan (11-7, 2-3 MAC) on Saturday (Jan. 20) at the Convocation Center. The opening tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
Saturday's game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with Ryan Wooley and Greg Steiner on the call. 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 6:30 p.m. ET with 'Countdown To Tipoff.'
OHIO SEEKS FIRST TRUE ROAD WIN OF 2017-18
Ohio will be looking to put a halt to a season-long three-game losing skid when it squares off with the Eagles on Saturday. The Bobcats are also in search of their first true road win of the 2017-18 campaign.
Ohio is coming off of a 91-57 loss to MAC West Division foe Toledo on Tuesday (Jan. 16) at the Convocation Center in Athens.
The Rockets shot 52.2 percent (35-of-67) from the field -- including 59.1 percent (13-of-22) from three-point range. The contest marked the best shooting performance by an Ohio opponent in 2017-18. Toledo held the Bobcats to just 34.9 percent (22-of-63) shooting. Ohio converted just 3-of-15 three-point attempts. Toledo raced out to a 44-25 halftime lead thanks to a 55.6 percent (15-of-27) shooting effort that included eight treys. The Rockets never led by less than 16 points in the second half and led by as many as 35.
The Bobcats were led by a career-high 15 points from junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio), who shot 6-of-9 from the field. He also added five blocks, five rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes of play.
Saturday's game marks Ohio's third league road contest of the 2018 season. The Bobcats dropped a 75-50 decision to MAC West Division foe Central Michigan on Jan. 2 in Mount Pleasant, Mich., then suffered a tough 70-69 setback to MAC East Division rival Kent State on Jan. 12 at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.
Through five MAC games, senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) leads Ohio with 16.2 points per contest, which ranks eighth in the conference. Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) is also averaging double figures in points in MAC play with 14.6 per contest. Taylor leads all MAC players in conference play with 3.2 blocks per game.
LASTER POWERS OHIO TO FIRST MAC WIN OF 2018
Laster scored a career-high 31 points to lead all scorers on 10-of-12 shooting with a career-high five three-pointers and went 6-of-7 from the free throw line as Ohio earned its first MAC victory of the 2018 season with a 78-68 triumph over Northern Illinois on Jan. 6 at the Convocation Center.
Laster became the first Bobcat to score at least 30 points in a game this season.
Taylor blocked a career-high six shots in addition to recording two points, six rebounds and a steal in 17 minutes. He became the first Bobcat to block at least five shots in a game since former forward Antonio Campbell did so in a 79-62 win over Northern Illinois in the 2016 MAC Tournament Quarterfinals on March 10, 2016, in Cleveland.
OHIO FINISHES NON-CONFERENCE PLAY WITH SEVEN WINS
The Bobcats tallied seven victories in 12 tries over the first two months of the 2017-18 campaign.
Ohio opened the year with a 61-53 triumph over Alabama A&M on Nov. 11 at the Convocation Center, marking the first of six wins at the Roundhouse On Richland in non-conference action. The Bobcats' biggest win of the non-conference slate came on Dec. 10, with Ohio posting an 89-84 victory over Western Kentucky, which had received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll the previous week.
The Bobcats went 1-2 at the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic, placing seventh in the tournament that was held Nov. 16-19 at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.
After falling to Clemson, 81-76, on Nov. 16 and in-state rival Dayton, 79-65, the following day, Ohio clawed back from an 18-point deficit and outlasted Indiana State in quadruple overtime, 96-94, on Nov. 19 in the seventh-place game.
The win over Indiana State saw the Bobcats play their first four-overtime contest since Dec. 18, 2010, and prevail in quadruple overtime for the first time since a 112-104 win over MAC rival Akron on Jan. 8, 2003. Ohio's rally from 18 down in the victory represented the program's largest comeback win of fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips' tenure. Per the college basketball analytics website KenPom.com, Ohio had a 0.3 percent chance of defeating Indiana State when the Bobcats trailed the Sycamores by a 77-68 count with 48 seconds remaining in the second overtime. Ohio refused to give in, though, and went on a 13-4 run in the final 40 seconds.
Ohio enters MAC play still in search of its first true road win of 2017-18. The Bobcats suffered an 87-62 setback to Big Ten Conference foe Maryland on Dec. 7 in College Park, Md., then fell to longtime rival Marshall in an overtime heartbreaker, 99-96, on Dec. 16 in Huntington, W. Va.
THE INJURY BUG
Ohio has been dealing with adversity on the injury front all through the early portion of the 2017-18 season.
Sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) -- a 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team selection and 2017 All-MAC Freshman Team pick -- has missed 13 games this year with a lower leg injury. The Bobcats have been depleted in the frontcourt as freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) works his way back from a lower leg injury and has yet to appear in a game this season. After missing the first 12 games of the 2017-18 campaign with an upper arm injury, freshman forward A.J. Gareri (Akron, Ohio) made his career debut at Central Michigan, scoring two points off of two made free throws. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) missed two games due to a lower leg injury.
The Bobcats have also found themselves without their starting guards at different points, with Laster and junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) each missing a game due to injuries.
Laster is looking to make his final season as a Bobcat his best yet, and he's off to a good start. He is averaging 15.9 points per game to lead the team and rank 10th among MAC players and is shooting 48.3 percent (100-of-207) from the field to rank third on the squad. He is shooting 40.5 percent (32-of-79) from beyond the arc, which leads the team and ranks eighth among MAC players.
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.
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. The stretch included a 25-point effort in the quadruple overtime win over Indiana State in the Gildan Charleston Classic.
Over his last 34 games, Laster is averaging 11.5 points per game and is shooting 51.0 percent (154-of-294) from the field.
ROOKIE PLAYING LIKE A VET
Kirk has impressed through his first 17 games as a Bobcat. Starting at point guard in every contest, he is averaging 14.4 points per game to rank second on the team and is shooting 44.4 percent (84-of-89) from the field. He has tallied double-digit points a team-high 15 times this year. He is also tied for the team lead with 1.2 steals per game and ranks second on the team with 6.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
Kirk achieved his first career double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to set a new career high in Ohio's 65-58 win over Northwestern Ohio on Dec. 29 at the Convo to close out the non-conference portion of the 2017-18 schedule.
Ohio beat Alabama A&M in the season opener on Nov. 11 at theConvo 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.
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.
Mickle 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 fourth on the team with 9.8 points per game and is shooting a team-best 50.8 percent (60-of-118) from the floor. He set a career high with 17 points in his first career start as a Bobcat in the win over Western Kentucky, which he then broke with his 19-point effort in the loss at Marshall.
Mickle has reached double figures in points eight times in 15 games played for Ohio in 2017-18. In 63 games at Florida Gulf Coast, he reached double digits just three times.
For his two-plus year Ohio career, Dartis averages 11.5 points per game and is a 44.7 percent shooter -- including a 43.9 percent success rate from beyond the arc, which ranks second in program history. He has finished in double figures 47 times in his Ohio career, which is the most among active Bobcats, and has tallied at least 20 points in a game nine times in his career, which is also ranks as the most among active Ohio players.
Dartis is averaging 12.6 points per game to rank third on the squad in 2017-18 and has finished with double-digit points nine times this season to rank third on the team. He scored a career-high 27 points, thanks in large part to matching his career high with seven made threes at Marshall. He then 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 in addition to sinking eight of his nine free throw attempts in an 84-65 win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 20 at the Convo.
A 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team pick, Dartis is coming off of a 2016-17 sophomore campaign in which he garnered Second Team All-MAC honors. He started a career-high 31 games, tallying a career-high 390 points (12.6 per game) to rank second on the team, a career-high 113 rebounds (3.6 per game) to rank fifth on the team, a career-high 56 assists (1.8 per game) to rank third on the team, a career-high 39 steals (1.3 per game) to lead the team and a career-high six blocks (0.2 per game) over a career-high 1,082 minutes (34.9 per game) to rank second on the team. Dartis shot 44.0 percent (118-of-268) from the field -- including a team-best 44.1 percent (86-of-195) from three-point range, which ranks as the seventh-best three-point field goal percentage in a single season in program history and ranked as the best in the conference and 11th in the nation. He also posted a team-best 88.3 percent (68-of-77) free throw percentage. Dartis finished in double figures in points a career-high 23 times to rank second on the team -- including recording 20 or more points a career-high four times -- and led the team in scoring a career-high four times and in assists a career-high two times.
After finishing a rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine boards to go along with a game-high five assists in 35 minutes in the win over Alabama A&M in the season opener, junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) averaged 15.0 points and 2.7 assists to rank second on the team and 7.7 rebounds to lead the team over three games at the Charleston Classic. He scored a career-high 22 points to lead all scorers and achieved his first career double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds to lead the team in addition to logging an assist and a steal in 34 minutes of work against Clemson. He then just missed out on a second-straight double-double with 14 points and a team-high nine boards in addition to distributing a team-high four assists in 34 minutes of work against Dayton.
Through 17 games this season, Block ranks fifth on the squad with 8.6 points per game and leads the team with 3.1 assists per game. His 4.1 rebounds per game are good for third on the squad.
DOUG'S FIRST DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Taylor achieved his first career double-double with a career-high 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in the win over Mount St. Mary's. He went 6-of-10 from the field and sank his first three-pointer of the season. He also had a pair of steals in 26 minutes.
Taylor is averaging a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game, which ranks eighth among MAC players. He has tallied double-digit boards a team-high six times -- including pulling down a career-high 15 in the quadrule overtime win over Indiana State in the Gildan Charleston Classic.
Taylor is also averaging a team-high 1.7 blocks per game, which is tied for second among MAC players.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Eastern Michigan has won two of its last three games -- including a 63-49 home victory over MAC East Division foe Akron on Tuesday.
Rob Murphy is in his seventh season as the head coach at Eastern Michigan. His squad was projected to finish fourth in the MAC West Division in the league's 2017-18 preseason poll after going 16-17 last year -- including a 7-11 conference mark.
Murphy's squad is one of the top defensive units in the MAC, ranking second with 69.3 points allowed per game while holding the opposition to 41.4 percent shooting, which is good for second in the conference and 76th in the country. The Eagles are shooting 47.1 percent from the field, which is also good for second in the MAC and 76th in the nation.
Eastern Michigan is led by redshirt junior forward Elijah Minnie, who averages 17.2 points per game to rank fifth among conference players. In conference games, Minnie is averaging 18.8 points per game, which is good for fourth in the MAC. He scored a game-high 22 points in the Eagles' victory over the Zips on Tuesday. Redshirt junior guard Paul Jackson is scoring at a 15.9 points-per-game rate and dropped 20 points in the win over the Zips. Junior forward/center James Thompson IV -- a 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC West Division Team pick -- is the only player in the MAC to average a double-double with 15.3 points and a league-high 11.5 rebounds per game. Thompson is shooting a conference-best 67.1 percent (108-of-161) from the floor.
Saturday's game marks the 75th all-time meeting between Ohio and Eastern Michigan, with the Bobcats leading the series, 49-25 (.662. Ohio is 3-2 against Eastern Michigan under Phillips.
The Bobcats and the Eagles split the season series in 2017 with each team taking a game on the other's home court. Eastern Michigan prevailed over Ohio, 53-49, on Jan. 14, 2017, in Athens, but the Bobcats rebounded with a 79-71 win on Feb. 14 in Ypsilanti. The Bobcats converted 33-of-42 free throw attempts (78.6 percent) in the victory -- including a 31-of-40 effort in the second half. Ohio won the battle of the boards, 44-35, and outscored Eastern Michigan's bench, 19-14 -- thanks in large part to a then-career-high 16 points from Laster.
Saturday's game marks the lone regular season meeting between Ohio and Eastern Michigan in 2018.
Ohio heads to the Rubber City to square off with MAC East Division rival Akron next Tuesday (Jan. 23) in a 7 p.m. showdown at James A. Rhodes Arena. The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.