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Ohio Men's Basketball Looks To Continue Winning Ways At Akron

Ohio Men's Basketball Looks To Continue Winning Ways At Akron

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By Mike Ashcraft
OhioBobcats.com

Watch: ESPN3
Listen: Ohio IMG Sports Network
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Game Notes: Ohio (PDF) | Akron (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio men's basketball team (9-9, 1-4 MAC) pays a visit to the Rubber City on Tuesday (Jan. 23) to clash with Mid-American Conference East Division rival Akron (9-9, 2-4 MAC). Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at James A. Rhodes Arena.

Tuesday's game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. 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 COACHES TO TAKE PART IN SUITS AND SNEAKERS WEEK
Thousands of basketball coaches across the country -- including fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips and his Ohio coaching staff -- will once again trade their dress shoes for sneakers to wear with their suits during the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Week, January 22-28. Fans can also be part of the action by participating in a nationwide online auction featuring sneakers and ties signed by Division I basketball coaches.

Fans can also purchase a specially-designed pair of gold sneaker laces from longtime Coaches vs. Cancer partner Shoe Carnival – in stores and online. These laces honor the memory of Lacey Holsworth, an avid basketball fan who died of cancer at the age of eight in 2014. One hundred percent of the funds from the sale of laces will benefit both Coaches vs. Cancer (85% of proceeds) and Princess Lacey's Legacy (15% of proceeds), specifically to fight pediatric cancer.

For the past 25 years, the Coaches vs. Cancer program, in collaboration with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has united coaches and fans nationwide to help the American Cancer Society defeat a common enemy – cancer. With your passion and dedicated support, the impact has been felt in communities nationwide. Through fundraising and education initiatives, the Coaches vs. Cancer program has supported the American Cancer Society in improving and saving lives from cancer in the US and worldwide. The fight isn't over, and we need you on our team. For more information and to join coaches in the fight against cancer, visit coachesvscancer.org.

DARTIS' HOT HAND HELPS OHIO EARN WIN AT EMU
Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) matched his career high by draining seven-three pointers en route to a game-high 24 points to help power Ohio to a 72-66 triumph over MAC East Division foe Eastern Michigan last Saturday (Jan. 20) at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich. The Bobcats' victory marked Ohio's first true road win of the 2017-18 campaign. Ohio picked up a win in Ypsilanti for the second year in a row.

Ohio overcame a 31-24 halftime deficit by outscoring the Eagles by a 48-35 count over the final 20 minutes of play. The Bobcats won for the third time in 2017-18 after trailing at the half. Ohio shot 63 percent (17-of-27) -- including 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from beyond the arc -- in the second half after converting at just a 30 percent (6-of-20) clip from the floor in the first half.

Dartis went 8-of-12 from the field -- including 7-of-10 from three-point range. He piled up 21 points in the second half, draining six treys. He recorded his fourth 20-point outing of the season and 10th of his Ohio career. Dartis also finished the contest with two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 33 minutes.

Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) scored 16 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the field with a pair of triples. He also added three rebounds and a block over 32 minutes. Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) finished with 12 points thanks in large part to an 8-of-8 effort from the free throw line. He has now finished in double figures in points a team-high 16 times this year. Kirk also dished out three assists, hauled in three boards and matched his career high with four steals in 30 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) went 4-of-4 from the floor to total eight points. He also grabbed two rebounds, blocked a game-high three shots and had an assist in 20 minutes. Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) notched six points, five rebounds, a game-high eight assists and a steal over 38 minutes. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) scored four points, posted a team-high seven rebounds and also logged two assists and a steal in 19 minutes of work off of the bench.

BOBCATS LOOK TO GAIN GROUND IN MAC PLAY
Ohio will be looking to string two wins in a row together for the first time in MAC play and gain some ground in the league standings when it takes on the Zips on Tuesday.

Offensively, the Bobcats rank second among MAC teams in conference play with a 38.2 percent (42-of-110) success rate from beyond the arc. On the defensive end of the floor, Ohio ranks second among MAC teams in league play with 4.8 blocks per contest.

Through six MAC games, Laster leads Ohio with 16.2 points per contest, which ranks ninth in the conference. He is shooting 50.0 percent (16-of-32) from three-point land in conference play, which is tied for fourth in the MAC. Kirk and Dartis are also averaging double figures in points in MAC play with 14.3 and 10.8 per contest, respectively. Kirk is averaging 1.8 steals per game in MAC play, which is tied for fourth in the conference. Taylor leads all MAC players in conference play with 3.2 blocks per game.

LASTER POWERS OHIO TO FIRST MAC WIN OF 2018
Laster 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 on Jan. 6 at the Convocation Center.

Laster became the first Bobcat to score at least 30 points in a game this season.

Taylor 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 Saul Phillips' Ohio coaching 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 entered MAC play still in search of its first true road win. 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.

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 13 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 15.9 points per game to lead the team and rank 10th among MAC players and is shooting 48.4 percent (106-of-219) from the field to rank third on the squad. He is shooting 41.0 percent (34-of-83) from beyond the arc, which ranks second on the team and ranks 10th among MAC players.

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 35 games, Laster is averaging 11.6 points per game and is shooting 51.0 percent (160-of-314) from the field.

ROOKIE PLAYING LIKE A VET
Kirk has impressed through his first 18 games as a Bobcat. Starting at point guard in every contest, he is averaging 14.3 points per game to rank second on the team and is shooting 43.4 percent (86-of-198) from the field. He also leads the team with 1.4 steals per game and ranks second on the squad in both rebounds per game (5.9) and assists per game (3.0).

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 9.4 points per game and is shooting 50.0 percent (61-of-122) 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 eight times in 15 games played for Ohio in 2017-18. 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 45.2 percent shooter -- including a 44.5 percent success rate from beyond the arc, which ranks second in program history. He has finished in double figures 48 times in his Ohio career, which is the most among active Bobcats, and has tallied at least 20 points in a game 10 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 10 times this season to rank third on the team. He is shooting a team-best 41.1 percent (46-of-112) from beyond the arc, which ranks ninth among conference players. 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, Block 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 18 games this season, Block ranks fifth on the squad with 8.5 points per game and leads the team with 3.4 assists per game. His 4.2 rebounds per game are good for third on the squad.

EVERYBODY DOUGIE
Taylor is averaging a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game, which ranks eighth among MAC players. He has tallied double-digit boards a team-high six times -- including pulling down a career-high 15 in the quadruple overtime win over Indiana State in the Gildan Charleston Classic.

Taylor is also averaging a team-high 1.8 blocks per game, which is tops among MAC players.

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 was the lone bright spot for Ohio in its 91-57 loss to MAC West Division foe last Tuesday (Jan. 16) at the Convo. He provided the Bobcats with a career-high 15 points, shooting 6-of-9 from the field. He also added five blocks, five rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes of play.

SCOUTING THE ZIPS
Akron started conference play 0-3 but has earned wins in two of its last three contests, most recently topping Northern Illinois, 82-67, last Saturday at the JAR.

A familiar face to Ohio fans now walks the Akron sidelines. John Groce is in his first season as head coach of the Zips after spending the previous five years at Illinois. Prior to arriving in Champaign, Ill, he served as head coach of the Bobcats from 2008-12, going 85-56 (.603) and guiding Ohio to MAC Tournament titles in both 2010 and '12. In 2010, Groce coached No. 14-seeded Ohio to a 97-83 upset of No. 15-ranked Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Championship. In 2012, he led No. 13-seeded Ohio all the way to the NCAA Championship Regional semifinals as the Bobcats took down Michigan, 65-60, and South Florida, 62-56, before falling to North Carolina in overtime, 73-65, in the Sweet Sixteen.

Groce's 2017-18 Akron squad currently ranks last in the MAC in points per game (71.9) and 12th in opponent field goal percentage (45.5 percent) while ranking 11th in free throw percentage (68.8 percent). The Zips do boast a top-three three-point shooting team, ranking third with a 37.7 percent success rate from beyond the arc.

Sophomore forward Daniel Utomi is averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game. Graduate guard Malcolm Duvivier averages 14.1 points per game while junior guard Jimond Ivey ranks third on the team with 12.9 points per game. Duvivier leads the Zips in MAC play with 14.0 points per game while Ivey ranks second with 13.2 and freshman guard Virshon Cotton is third with 12.3.

SERIES HISTORY
Tuesday's game marks the 78th all-time meeting between Ohio and Akron, with the Bobcats trailing the Zips in the series, 38-40  (.487). Ohio is 2-4 against Akron under Phillips.

The Bobcats and the Eagles split the season series in 2017. Ohio responded from an 83-68 defeat at the JAR on Jan. 17, 2017, with an 85-70 victory at the Convo on Feb. 14, 2017. 

Ohio is in search of its first win in Akron since a 66-50 triumph on Feb. 22, 2014.

UP NEXT
Ohio plays host to a nationally televised contest against MAC East Division rival Buffalo on Friday (Jan. 26) at the Convocation Center. The game is set to tip-off at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be featured on CBS Sports Network.

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