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Ohio Men's Basketball Plays Host To Key Early Season MAC Matchup Against Ball State

Ohio Men's Basketball Plays Host To Key Early Season MAC Matchup Against Ball State

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By Mike Ashcraft
OhioBobcats.com

Watch: ESPN3
Listen: Ohio IMG Sports Network
Live Stats: PrestoSports PrimeTime
Game Notes: Ohio (PDF) | Ball State (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio --
 The Ohio men's basketball team (8-6, 1-1 MAC) looks to post back-to-back-victories for the first time in 2018 Mid-American Conference play when it welcomes West Division foe Ball State (10-5, 1-1 MAC) to the Convocation Center on Tuesday (Jan. 9) for a 7 p.m. ET matchup. 

Tuesday's game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with Marty Bannister and Toni Roesch on the call. The contest will also be broadcast on the Ohio IMG Sports Network, with 'Voice of the Bobcats' Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius on the call. Radio pregame coverage is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET with 'Countdown To Tipoff.'

OHIO BOUNCES BACK WITH WIN OVER NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) scored a career-high 31 points to lead all scorers on 10-of-12 shooting with a career-high five three-pointers and went 6-of-7 from the free throw line as Ohio earned its first MAC victory of the 2018 season with a 78-68 triumph over Northern Illinois last Saturday (Jan. 6) at the Convocation Center.

Ohio bounced back from a lackluster 75-50 loss to MAC West Division foe Central Michigan in the 2018 league opener last Tuesday (Jan. 2) in Mount Pleasant Mich. The bounce-back victory over Northern Illinois marks the fifth time in six tries Ohio has responded from a loss of 20 points or more with a win in the following game under fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips.

Laster has now finished in double figures in scoring 11 times this year, including each of his last 10 games played. He became the first Bobcat to score at least 30 points in a game this season. In addition to his big scoring output, he finished Saturday's contest with four rebounds, two assists and a block over 39 minutes of work.

Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) continued the strong start to his collegiate career, going 4-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe en route to 16 points. He has now reached double digits in scoring a team-high 12 times this season. Kirk tied for the team lead with six rebounds and also chipped in two assists and a steal in 30 minutes.

Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) produced nine points thanks in large part to a 4-of-5 effort from the free throw line and also distributed three assists, grabbed two rebounds and tallied a steal in 35 minutes. As is often the case, Block's impact extended beyond his stat line as he drew several charges and was routinely diving on the floor for loose balls. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) went 4-of-6 from the field to finish with eight points off of the bench. He also logged a career-high four assists and hauled in three boards in 21 minutes. Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) hit three field goals -- including a pair of treys -- to compile eight points. He also added four rebounds, a team-high two steals and an assist in 36 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) blocked a career-high six shots in addition to recording two points, six rebounds and a steal in 17 minutes. He became the first Bobcat to block at least five shots in a game since former forward Antonio Campbell did so in a 79-62 win over Northern Illinois in the 2016 MAC Tournament Quarterfinals on March 10, 2016, in Cleveland.

OHIO FINISHES NON-CONFERENCE PLAY WITH SEVEN WINS
The Bobcats tallied seven victories in 12 tries over the first two months of the 2017-18 campaign. 

Ohio opened the year with a 61-53 triumph over Alabama A&M on Nov. 11 at the Convocation Center, marking the first of six wins at the Roundhouse On Richland in non-conference action. The Bobcats' biggest win of the non-conference slate came on Dec. 10, with Ohio posting an 89-84 victory over Western Kentucky, which had received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll the previous week.

The Bobcats went 1-2 at the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic, placing seventh in the tournament that was held Nov. 16-19 at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.

After falling to Clemson, 81-76, on Nov. 16 and in-state rival Dayton, 79-65, the following day, Ohio clawed back from an 18-point deficit and outlasted Indiana State in quadruple overtime, 96-94, on Nov. 19 in the seventh-place game.

The win over Indiana State saw the Bobcats play their first four-overtime contest since Dec. 18, 2010, and prevail in quadruple overtime for the first time since a 112-104 win over MAC rival Akron on Jan. 8, 2003. Ohio's rally from 18 down in the victory represented the program's largest comeback win of fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips' tenure. Per the college basketball analytics website KenPom.com, Ohio had a 0.3 percent chance of defeating Indiana State when the Bobcats trailed the Sycamores by a 77-68 count with 48 seconds remaining in the second overtime. Ohio refused to give in, though, and went on a 13-4 run in the final 40 seconds.

Ohio enters MAC play still in search of its first true road win of 2017-18. The Bobcats suffered an 87-62 setback to Big Ten Conference foe Maryland on Dec. 7 in College Park, Md., then fell to longtime rival Marshall in an overtime heartbreaker, 99-96, on Dec. 16 in Huntington, W. Va.

DE-FENSE
Ohio is holding the opposition to a 41.8 percent field goal percentage in 2017-18, which is good for third among MAC teams. Opponents are shooting just 31.4 percent from beyond the arc, which marks the lowest opponent three-point field goal percentage among MAC teams and ranks 47th in the country.

THE INJURY BUG
Ohio has been dealing with adversity on the injury front all through the early portion of the 2017-18 season.

Sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) -- a 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team selection and 2017 All-MAC Freshman Team pick -- has missed 11 games this year with a lower leg injury. The Bobcats have been depleted in the frontcourt as freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) works his way back from a lower leg injury and has yet to appear in a game this season. After missing the first 12 games of the 2017-18 campaign with an upper arm injury, freshman forward A.J. Gareri (Akron, Ohio) made his career debut at Central Michigan, scoring two points off of two made free throws. Mickle missed two games due to a lower leg injury.

The Bobcats have also found themselves without their starting guards at different points, with Laster and Dartis each missing a game due to injuries.

SENIOR LEADER
Laster is looking to make his final season as a Bobcat his best yet, and he's off to a good start. He is averaging 17.2 points per game to lead the team and rank seventh among MAC players and is shooting 52.4 percent (88-of-168) from the field to rank second on the squad. He is shooting 40.3 percent (25-of-62) from beyond the arc, which leads the team and ranks 10th among MAC players. Laster's 25.0 points per game over the first two MAC contests of 2018 is the highest in the league. He is shooting a scorching 69.2 percent (18-of-26) from the floor in conference play to rank third in the league -- including 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from three-point range, which is good for sixth in the conference.

Laster turned in his fourth game of the 2017-18 season with at least 20 points in the win over Western Kentucky. He led Ohio with a 23-point effort, going 8-of-11 from the field -- including 2-of-3 from three-point range -- en route to finishing in double figures for the sixth game in a row. 

Between Nov. 19-28, Laster tallied three-straight games with at least 20 points, making him the first Bobcat to achieve such a feat since 2015-16. The stretch included a 25-point effort in the quadruple overtime win over Indiana State in the Gildan Charleston Classic.

Over his last 31 games, Laster is averaging 11.6 points per game and is shooting 54.0 percent (142-of-163) from the field.

ROOKIE PLAYING LIKE A VET
Kirk has impressed through his first 12 games as a Bobcat. Starting at point guard in every contest, he is averaging 14.4 points per game to rank second on the team and is shooting 45.5 percent (71-of-156) from the field. He was the lone Bobcat to tally double-digit points the first six contests of the year. He also ranks second on the team with 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Kirk achieved his first career double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to set a new career high in Ohio's 65-58 win over Northwestern Ohio on Dec. 29 at the Convo to close out the non-conference portion of the 2017-18 schedule. 

Ohio beat Alabama A&M in the season opener on Nov. 11 at the Convo behind a game-high 16 points from Kirk in his debut for the Bobcats. At the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C., Kirk notched 10 points, a game-high six assists, four rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes against Clemson (Nov. 16), then logged 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal over 27 minutes against Dayton (Nov. 17) in the Charleston Classic. He saved his best for last in Charleston with a 20-point effort that saw him score a combined 12 points over the final three overtimes to help the Bobcats clinch the win in quadruple overtime over Indiana State.

Kirk continued the strong start to his freshman campaign in a 96-77 win over Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 24 at the Convo, tallying a career-high 20 points for the second game in a row to tie for the team lead. He shot 7-of-14 from the floor -- including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc -- in addition to sinking four his five free throw attempts. 

MONEY MICKLE
Mickle has proven to be a valuable addition to the Ohio rotation since joining the program upon earning his bachelor's degree in communications from Florida Gulf Coast after playing for the Eagles for two seasons. 

Mickle currently ranks fourth on the team with 10.8 points per game and is shooting a team-best 55.3 percent (52-of-94) from the floor. He set a career high with 17 points in his first career start as a Bobcat in the win over Western Kentucky, which he then broke with his 19-point effort in the loss at Marshall.\

Mickle has reached double figures in points seven times in 12 games played for Ohio in 2017-18 -- including four of the last six contests. In 63 games at Florida Gulf Coast, he reached double digits just three times.

SHOOTERS SHOOT
For his two-plus year Ohio career, Dartis averages 11.6 points per game and is a 44.6 percent shooter -- including a program-record 43.9 percent success rate from beyond the arc. He has finished in double figures 45 times in his Ohio career, which is the most among active Bobcats, and has tallied at least 20 points in a game nine times in his career, which is also ranks as the most among active Ohio players.

Dartis is averaging 13.3 points per game to rank third on the squad in 2017-18 and has finished with double-digit points seven times this season to rank third on the team. He scored a career-high 27 points, thanks in large part to matching his career high with seven made threes at Marshall. He then recorded his second-straight outing with at least 20 points, tallying a team-high 23 off a 6-of-13 shooting effort from the field that included three treys in addition to sinking eight of his nine free throw attempts in an 84-65 win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 20 at the Convo.

A 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team pick, Dartis is coming off of a 2016-17 sophomore campaign in which he 

garnered Second Team All-MAC honors. He started a career-high 31 games, tallying a career-high 390 points (12.6 per game) to rank second on the team, a career-high 113 rebounds (3.6 per game) to rank fifth on the team, a career-high 56 assists (1.8 per game) to rank third on the team, a career-high 39 steals (1.3 per game) to lead the team and a career-high six blocks (0.2 per game) over a career-high 1,082 minutes (34.9 per game) to rank second on the team. Dartis shot 44.0 percent (118-of-268) from the field -- including a team-best 44.1 percent (86-of-195) from three-point range, which ranks as the seventh-best three-point field goal percentage in a single season in program history and ranked as the best in the conference and 11th in the nation. He also posted a team-best 88.3 percent (68-of-77) free throw percentage. Dartis finished in double figures in points a career-high 23 times to rank second on the team -- including recording 20 or more points a career-high four times -- and led the team in scoring a career-high four times and in assists a career-high two times.

BUILDING BLOCK
After finishing a rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine boards to go along with a game-high five assists in 35 minutes in the win over Alabama A&M in the season opener, junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) averaged 15.0 points and 2.7 assists to rank second on the team and 7.7 rebounds to lead the team over three games at the Charleston Classic. He scored a career-high 22 points to lead all scorers and achieved his first career double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds to lead the team in addition to logging an assist and a steal in 34 minutes of work against Clemson. He then just missed out on a second-straight double-double with 14 points and a team-high nine boards in addition to distributing a team-high four assists in 34 minutes of work against Dayton.

Through 14 games this season, Block ranks fifth on the squad with 9.2 points per game and leads the team with 3.4 assists per game. His 4.0 rebounds per game are good for third on the squad.

DOUG'S FIRST DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Taylor achieved his first career double-double with a career-high 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in the win over Mount St. Mary's. He went 6-of-10 from the field and sank his first three-pointer of the season. He also had a pair of steals in 26 minutes.

Taylor is averaging a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game, which ranks fifth among MAC players. He has tallied double-digit boards a team-high six times -- including pulling down a career-high 15 in the quadrule overtime win over Indiana State in the Gildan Charleston Classic.

Taylor is also averaging a team-high 1.5 blocks per game, which ranks fourth among MAC players. He tallied a game-high four blocks in the win over Alabama A&M in the season opener. He then blocked three shots in the win over Indiana State.

GOLLON RETURNS FROM INJURY
In the win over Alabama A&M in the season opener, redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) saw game action for the first time since March 23, 2016, when Ohio faced Morehead State in the 2016 College Basketball Invitational semifinals. He played 11 minutes off of the bench, posting two rebounds and a steal and tallying his first career block.

Gollon has finished in double figures in points three times this season. He went a career-best 5-of-9 from the field -- including a career-best 4-of-7 performance from three-point range -- in addition to knocking down all three of his free throw attempts en route to a career-high 17 points in the win over Western Kentucky.

As a true freshman in 2015-16, Gollon played in 20 games, tallying 21 points (1.1 per game), 14 rebounds (0.7 per game), five assists (0.3 per game) and two steals per game (0.1 per game) over 109 minutes (5.5 per game). He sat out the entire 2016-17 season with hip and shoulder injuries that had lingered since his playing days at Pacelli High School.

YEAR FOUR OF PHILLIPS ERA
Ohio enters its fourth season under the direction of Phillips in 2017-18. Phillips has led the Bobcats to 61 wins over the past three-plus seasons. He coached his 100th game on the Ohio bench in the quadruple overtime triumph over Indiana State in the Charleston Classic.

PROTECT THIS HOUSE
Ohio has registered an impressive 494-157 (.759) all-time record at the Convocation Center, which opened in 1968.

In three seasons under Phillips, Ohio has gone 43-15 (.741) at home.

SCOUTING THE CARDINALS
Ball State begins the second week of MAC play with an overall record of 10-5 and a 1-1 mark in league play. The Cardinals ran their winning streak to nine in a row with a 72-62 victory over MAC West Division rival Eastern Michigan last Tuesday in Muncie, Ind., but saw the streak snapped with an 83-63 setback to Buffalo on Saturday at Worthen Arena.

The Cardinals own the league's biggest non-conference victory of the 2017-18 campaign after pulling out an 80-77 stunner at then-No. 9-ranked Notre Dame on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind.

Ball State is led by fifth-year head coach James Whitford. The Cardinals were picked to finish second in the MAC West in the league's 2017-18 preseason poll after earning 156 points and receiving eight first-place votes. Ball State also received five votes to capture the conference tournament crown. Ball State went 21-13 overall in 2016-17 -- including 11-7 in MAC play. The Cardinals knocked off Western Michigan, 66-63, in the league tournament quarterfinals before falling to No. 1-seeded Akron, 74-70, the following day in the semis.

Ball State owns the fourth-best team field goal percentage in the MAC entering the second week of conference play, converting at a 45.5 percent rate from the floor. The Cardinals are the conference's second-best free throw shooting team and rank 58th nationally with a 74.5 percent success rate from the charity stripe.

Redshirt junior guard Tayler Person, a 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC West Division Team selection, averages 14.3 points per game to lead the Cardinals in scoring and also leads the squad in assists with 4.3 per game. Sophomore forward Kyle Mallers averages 11.2 points per game and is shooting 85.2 percent (46-of-54) from the free throw line. Redshirt sophomore forward Tahjai Teague ranks third on the team with 10.4 points per game and is shooting a team-best 59.8 percent (61-of-102) from the field. He is also second on the squad with 7.1 boards per game. Senior guard/forward Sean Sellers averages 8.6 points per game. Junior center Trey Moses is averaging a 7.5 rebounds per game to go along with 7.8 points per contest.

SERIES HISTORY
Ohio and Ball State square off on the hardwood for the 82nd time on Tuesday, with the Bobcats leading the all-time series, 47-34 (.580). The Bobcats have taken each of the last eight meetings from the Cardinals, which is Ohio's longest current winning streak against any MAC program. 

Ohio got three-straight defensive stops when it had to have them on the game's final possessions to hang on for a heart-stopping 79-77 victory over Ball State on Feb. 10, 2017, in a nationally televised matchup at Worthen Arena in the last meeting between the two squads. Dartis led Ohio with 16 points, going 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Laster tallied 14 points, with 11 coming in the first half. Block finished with 13 points. Moses recorded a double-double for Ball State with a game-high 17 points and 12 rebounds. Sellers went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to 14 points. Persons and guard Francis Kiapway each scored 12 points for Ball State. Persons also distributed a game-high six assists.

Ball State last visited the Convo on Jan. 9, 2016, with Ohio sending the Cardinals back to Muncie with a 79-73 defeat. The Bobcats overcame a tough first half in which they shot 34.6 percent (9-of-26) and entered halftime trailing the Cardinals by six at 39-33. Ohio bounced back in the second half, shooting 50.0 percent (15-of-30) from the field. The Green & White took advantage of its 31 trips to the charity stripe, converting 25 free throws (80.6 percent). The Bobcats outrebounded the Cardinals, 40-29, in addition to leading the way in points in the paint (34-28), points off turnovers (16-10) and second chance points (17-5). Block scored seven points and tallied a steal in 18 minutes off of the bench for Ohio. Kiapway led the Cardinals with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting -- including 6-of-8 from the perimeter. Moses scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting

Tuesday's game marks the lone regular season meeting between Ohio and Ball State in 2018.

UP NEXT
Ohio hits the road for the second time in conference play on Friday (Jan. 12) when it visits MAC East Division rival Kent State for a 7 p.m. ET showdown at the M.A.C. Center. The contest will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.

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