ATHENS, Ohio -- On an afternoon where the Ohio men's basketball team needed a leader on the floor, freshman guard Teyvion Kirk took the reins.
The rookie out of Joliet, Ill., created opportunities for his teammates. He drove down the lane for an and-one. He never shied away from being the aggressor on the floor.
He was put in a situation Saturday (Nov. 11) at the Convocation Center he wasn't ever supposed to be in -- starting at point guard in game No. 1 of the 2017-18 season because of sophomore forward Jason Carter's absence due to a lower leg injury.
Instead of making excuses -- which he could have because it was his first collegiate start -- Kirk played with the confidence of a veteran and led the Bobcats to a 61-53 win over Alabama A&M in the season opener.
"I got those chills out in the exhibition game," said Kirk. "I try to keep my confidence high because that's just the type of player I am. I just try to take the game like it's practice. These guys do a good job. I know they believe in me. It was solid. Always room for improvement."
Most of the damage Kirk did came in the first half when he scored 12 of 16 points. But throughout the second half, the steadiness of the Ohio offense seemed to disappear.
The Bulldogs went on a 17-2 run, and all offensive productions seemed to come to a halt for Ohio. Shots weren't falling, ball movement was being rushed and communication wasn't happening.
The lapse wasn't a short one. The only player to score during the run was Kirk off of his signature move of the night: a drive down the lane, lean into the defender and flip the ball into the basket for a layup.
"The game took a strange trajectory," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "Until we decided to boycott scoring, we were really playing pretty good basketball."
After Ohio's exhibition game victory over NCAA Division III Capital on Nov. 4, Phillips called Kirk a bulldog. It seemed fitting that the bulldog had his first big game Saturday against the Bulldogs. It was the first game where he shined, and it won't be his last. But, as Phillips said, Kirk will have his ups and downs -- he's a freshman. But, with so much upside it's hard not to gawk at the performance against Alabama A&M.
For a team searching for a point guard, Kirk showed that he was capable of facilitating the offense and leading it, whether it means scoring points or finding open teammates.
"I like TK," said Phillips. "For the bulk of the night, he looked pretty darn comfortable there."