AKRON, Ohio – The Ohio University men’s basketball team (19-8, 9-5) picked up a critical road victory Saturday after dispatching of rival Akron (17-10, 9-5), 66-50, at James A. Rhodes Arena.
With the victory, Ohio moved into a tie for second place in the MAC East and is now tied with Akron for the No. 4 seed in the conference. The top-four teams get two byes in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Ohio used a stifling defensive effort to earn its eighth road win of the season. The ‘Cats limited Akron to a season-low 26.8 percent shooting and cut off the Zips’ passing lanes while holding the home team to just four assists. It marked the lowest field goal percentage by an Ohio opponent since the 'Cats limited Ball State to 26.5 percent shooting on Feb. 6, 2013.
The ‘Cats shot a solid 54.7 percent (29-53) from the field and held an impressive 38-16 edge in points in the paint for the game. The ‘Cats also posted a 10-0 edge in fast break points and distributed 16 assists on the night.
Senior forward Jon Smith (Westerville, Ohio) played arguably his best game in an Ohio uniform, pacing the ‘Cats with 16 points and 12 rebounds to post his second double-double in the past four games. Smith also made 8-of-9 field goal attempts in 30 minutes of work.
Senior guard Travis Wilkins (Springfield, Mo.) continued his hot shooting of late with a 5-of-6 performance (3-3 3pt FG) to finish with 14 points. Senior guard Nick Kellogg added 12 points (5-10 FG) and added three rebounds despite playing just 22 minutes due to foul trouble.
Junior guard Javarez Willis (Homer, La.) played another strong game at point guard while posting six points, six assists and three steals and sophomore forward Treg Setty (Maysville, Ky.) added seven points (3-3 FG) in nine minutes off the bench.
Behind strong defense and fluid transition offense, Ohio used a 14-0 run to build a 14-2 lead. Akron used an 11-2 run to move back within two (18-16) with 7:18 to play in the first half. From there, Ohio used a strong 14-2 run to end the half and took a 36-20 lead into the break.
It tied Ohio’s largest halftime lead of the season, as the ‘Cats led 42-26 vs. Evansville on Nov. 30. Akron’s six first-half field goals tied a season low for an Ohio opponent as well.
Ohio built its lead up to 19 (46-27) on a coast-to-coast slammer from Smith early in the second half, before Akron used a 6-0 run to move back within 13 (46-33). The ‘Cats responded with an 11-2 run to build a 22-point lead (57-35), but Akron responded with an 11-2 run to move within 13 (61-48) with 1:40 to play. The Zips could not move any closer in the game’s final minutes.
Ohio is now 11-1 in Saturday games this season and 16-3 when it commits 15 or fewer turnovers.
Ohio returns to Athens for its second meeting with Buffalo on Wednesday (Feb. 26) at 7 p.m. Pre-game coverage on the Ohio IMG Sports Network begins at 6:30 p.m. Ohio won the first meeting, 73-70, in Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 15.