KENT, Ohio - Behind a stellar defensive effort, the Ohio University men's basketball team (11-3, 1-0) withstood a furious Kent State rally to surge past the Golden Flashes (9-5, 0-1) by the score of 59-53 Wednesday night at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.
The Bobcats led 26-19 at halftime before falling behind by four with 10 minutes to play. But a key 15-4 run by Ohio midway through the second half propelled the Green & White to the victory.
The victory marked Ohio's second-straight MAC opener victory. The `Cats have won 25 of their past 30 league contests.
Ohio held Kent State to just 28.3 percent shooting (17-60) for the game, including a 4-for-22 mark (.182) from beyond the arc. The `Cats also posted 10 steals in the contest and held a 14-7 edge in points off turnovers in the game.
Senior guard Nick Kellogg (Westerville, Ohio) led all scorers with 19 points while chipping in six rebounds and three steals in 33 minutes on the floor. Junior forward Maurice Ndour (Mbour, Senegal) battled foul trouble all game, but still finished with nine points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Kellogg was one of three Bobcats with seven or more rebounds, as senior guard/forward T.J. Hall (Gainesville, Fla.) grabbed a game-high nine boards to go along with seven points and two blocks.
Senior guard Travis Wilkins (Springfield, Mo.) knocked down two key 3-pointers in the second half and finished with eight points and a career-high seven rebounds, while senior forward Jon Smith (Grove City, Ohio) tallied seven points, four rebounds and four blocks for the `Cats.
The two teams battled back in forth through the first 12 minutes of action, with Kent State holding a 13-12 edge at the 7:54 mark of the first half. From there, Ohio began to take control on the defensive end and used an 8-2 run over the final five minutes to take a seven-point lead (26-19) into halftime.
The Flashes put together a 9-4 run out of the gate in the second half to move within two at 30-28. Ohio responded with buckets from Treg Setty and Kellogg to build the lead back to six (36-30), but the Flashes answered with eight straight to go up by three at 39-36.
The Flashes went up four at 42-38, before Ohio put together a 15-4 run over the next eight minutes to go back up seven (53-46) with 2:21 to play. The run included two key 3-pointers from Wilkins and a transition jammer from Ndour.
The Golden Flashes could not move closer than four for the remainder of the game.
The Bobcats are now 10-0 when they hold their opponent to 70 points or fewer and 9-0 when they limit their opponent to less than 40 percent shooting.
Ohio faces another MAC East rival Sunday at 6 p.m. when Akron pays a visit to the Convo. The game will be televised locally on Time Warner CableSportsChannel and broadcast nationally on ESPN3. Ohio fans also can listen to the contest live on the Ohio IMG Sports Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m.