By Mike Ashcraft
Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio men's basketball team (7-5) closed out the non-conference portion of its 2017-18 schedule with a 65-58 win over Northwestern Ohio on Friday (Dec. 29) at the Convocation Center.
"We need to play much better than that," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "There's a jillion reasons why it may have occurred. All of them are excuses. All I'm interested in is not playing that way again."
Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) provided the Bobcats with a game-high 15 points off of the bench, going 7-of-13 from the field. He has now finished in double figures in each of the last four games and seven times this season. Mickle also posted three rebounds, two steals and a block in 25 minutes of work.
"Shooting the ball more," said Mickle of the reasons for his success on the offensive end. "Playing a little more extended. Running the floor well. Actually adding more moves and combos coming off my left shoulder. Seeing the floor, seeing the court with a point guard-type vision. Going out and in, or in and out. Basically, being more versatile in the game."
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) achieved his first career double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to set a new career high. He also chipped in three assists while playing all 40 minutes. Kirk has finished in double figures in points a team-high 10 times this year.
"I can be very versatile," said Kirk. "Scoring, rebounding, assists. I just try to do everything for the team, whatever they need me to do. Plus with rebounds, it starts a break by itself with me being a point guard."
Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) returned to the starting lineup after missing one game with an injury, totaling 12 points, two rebounds and two assists over 32 minutes. He has reached double digits in points in each of his last eight games. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) notched nine points, six rebounds and a block in 22 minutes. Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) compiled eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist in 32 minutes of work.
The Bobcats took a 36-30 lead into halftime after shooting 51.7 percent (15-of-29) in the opening 20 minutes of play. Kirk went 4-of-7 for 11 points while Mickle scored nine points off of a 4-of-6 effort from the floor.
Ohio's lead swelled to double digits for the first time with just over 18 minutes remaining when a layup by Taylor put the Bobcats up by a 41-30 count. The Bobcats outscored the Racers by a 24-14 margin over the opening 12:27 of the second half, with a rim rocking fastbreak slam dunk by Mickle off of a steal putting Ohio up by a game-high 16 points at 60-44 with just over seven minutes to go.
Northwestern Ohio would not go away quietly, though. The Racers went on a 9-0 run to make it a four-point contest with 3:28 left, with a pair of baskets by senior forward Daniel Page and a three-pointer by senior guard Sadeeq Bello powering the rally. The Bobcats went nearly six minutes without scoring a single point until Laster finally broke the slump by draining a corner trey off of a cross-court skip pass by junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) to give Ohio a seven-point lead at 63-56 with 1:45 remaining. Senior forward Corbin Pierce made a layup on Northwestern Ohio's next possession to make it a five-point affair with just over a minute to go, but the Racers were forced to foul Laster on Ohio's next trip down the floor. Laster sank a pair of freebies with 56 seconds left to seal the win.
The Racers were led by a 13-point effort by sophomore guard/forward Nathan Bradley, who went 5-of-10 from the field with a pair of treys. He also had four rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes. Junior forward Willis Mackey, Jr. made five of his six shots en route to 11 points and also had five boards in 15 minutes of work off of the bench. Pierce totaled 10 points, four rebounds and an assist over 30 minutes. Bello made three triples to finish with nine points and also recorded a game-high seven assists to go along with seven rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes. Page posted eight points, a team-high 11 rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes of action.
Ohio opens 2018 Mid-American Conference play next Tuesday (Jan. 2) with a trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to square off with West Division foe Central Michigan (11-2) in a 7 p.m. ET matchup at McGuirk Arena. The contest will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.