Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- Six players scored in double figures in help the Ohio men's basketball team (12-15, 5-10 MAC) knock off Mid-American Conference East Division rival Kent State (13-15, 7-8 MAC), 88-76, on Tuesday (Feb. 20) at the Convocation Center.
After beating MAC East Division archrival Miami, 92-87, in overtime last Saturday (Feb. 17), the Bobcats strung together back-to-back victories for the first time in MAC play in 2018 courtesy of the win over the Golden Flashes. Ohio has posted wins in three of its last five contests after starting MAC play 2-8. The Bobcats have now topped Kent State in each of the Golden Flashes' last three trips to Athens. Ohio ended a three-game losing streak in the series with Kent State.
With the win, the Bobcats now occupy 11th place in the overall MAC standings with three games to play before league tournament action begins. At two games back of the No. 6 seed, Ohio is still mathematically in the hunt to host a first-round matchup at the Convo on March 5 and could still finish as high as fifth.
Ohio never trailed Kent State in Tuesday's triumph. The Bobcats shot 55.2 percent (32-of-58) from the field from the field and made 10 three-pointers. The Bobcats tallied their second-most assists in a MAC game this season with 19. By totaling 88 points, Ohio has now scored at least that amount in four of its last six games.
"We've worked as hard as we can at offense," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "We've allocated a lot of practice to that. I think the biggest thing you're seeing is a better understand of how to run a team out of a freshman point guard. And boy, is it starting to look fun out there. We're edging towards being the kind of team you don't want to see in the tournament in a hurry."
Once again, junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) led the way for the Bobcats in a win, totaling a game-high 20 points thanks in large part to going 7-of-15 from the floor with five treys. He has now scored at least 20 points in a game a team-high seven times this season -- including in each of Ohio's last three victories. Dartis also compiled four assists to tie for the team lead as well as three rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes. Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) continued his strong play in his rookie season, scoring 17 points off of 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. He has now finished in double figures in points a team-high 25 times this season -- including each of the last 19 contests. Kirk also tied for the team lead with four assists in addition to hauling in five boards in 32 minutes of action. Making his second-straight start, redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) made 5-of-8 attempts from the floor -- including three triples -- to log 13 points. He finished in double figures for the fourth time in the last six games. Gollon also notched a team-high seven rebounds, three steals to tie his career high and an assist in 31 minutes. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y) recorded 13 points over 22 minutes of work off of the bench, going 5-of-6 from the field with a three and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. He has finished in double figures in each of the last three games and 12 times this year. Mickle also collected six rebounds and an assist. Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) recorded 11 points to finish in double figures for the 19th time this season, which ranks second on the team. He also posted three assists, two rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) made five of his seven shots to finish with 10 points, marking the sixth time he has scored in double figures this year. He also added five rebounds over 21 minutes of action.
"It's definitely coming together," said Kirk. "We're doing great on offense. Just getting everybody the ball, just making everybody a threat. Keeping people honest on defense, also just getting some stops."
Kent State made 44.9 percent (31-of-69) of its shots but was just 6-of-25 from beyond the arc. Junior center Adonis De La Rosa led the Golden Flashes with 13 points and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. He also recorded a steal in 30 minutes on the court. Junior guard Jaylin Walker, senior guard Desmond Ridenour and senior guard Kevin Zabo all totaled 12 points apiece for Kent State. Walker shot just 1-of-9 from three-point range. He also finished with three rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes. Ridenour went 5-of-6 from the field with a pair of triples. He also tallied two steals and a rebound in 16 minutes off of the bench. Zabo contributed six rebounds, four assists to tie for the team lead and a steal over 34 minutes of work off of the bench.
Ohio built a 47-39 halftime lead thanks in large part to Dartis, who shot 6-of-12 from the field with four triples en route to a half-high 16 points. Mickle made all three of his field goal attempts -- including a three -- to chip in nine points in the opening 20 minutes of play. The Bobcats led by as many as 11 with just under two minutes to go in the first half when freshman guard Zach Butler (Spartanburg, S.C.) knocked down a jumper.
The Bobcats never led by less than seven over the first eight-plus minutes of the second half as three-pointers by Gollon and Dartis, a dunk by Taylor and a layup by Laster helped Ohio sport an 11-point advantage at 62-51 with just under 12 minutes to go. Kent State awoke, though, going on a 9-0 run capped by a jumper by Zabo to cut Ohio's lead down to two at 62-60 with just over nine minutes left and force the Bobcats to burn a timeout.
Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) who had exited the contest briefly in the second half due to suffering a hand injury, helped swing momentum back in favor of the Bobcats, though, making a layup out of the timeout that sparked a 12-0 run by Ohio. Kirk scored eight-straight points on his own -- including a dunk -- while Mickle made it a game-high 14-point lead for the Bobcats at 74-60 with 6:32 to play when he made a layup.
A three-pointer by Gollon made it an 11-point game at 79-68 with just over four minutes to go, but a three-pointer by junior guard Jalen Avery and an and-one layup by Walker allowed the Golden Flashes to get their deficit down to five with 2:43 remaining. That's as close as Ohio allowed Kent State to get, though, outscoring the visitors by a 9-2 count over the final 2:33, with Taylor scoring four points for the Bobcats down the final stretch courtesy of a layup and a jumper.
"I just look at it as the focus we have," said Dartis of his team's recent success. "We're just so free right now. We're not really worried about tournament seeding. We're just taking it one game at a time, just trying to better ourselves every day in practice and in games."
Ohio travels to Amherst, N.Y., to take on MAC East Division rival Buffalo (20-8, 12-3 MAC) on Saturday (Feb. 24) at Alumni Arena. The opening tip is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. The Bobcats will be looking to avenge a 73-66 setback to the first-place Bulls in the first meeting of the 2018 season between the two squads on Jan. 26 at the Convo.