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ATHENS, Ohio -- Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) exploded for a career-high 38 points behind 10 three-pointers to help the Ohio men's basketball team (10-13, 3-8 MAC) dominate Mid-American Conference East Division rival Akron (10-13, 3-8 MAC), 99-75, on Tuesday (Feb. 6) at the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats evened the regular season series with the Zips, avenging a 71-68 loss at Akron on Jan. 23. Ohio's 24-point triumph on Tuesday marked the Bobcats' largest margin of victory over the Zips since another 24-point win, 85-61, on Feb. 26, 2012, at the Convo.
Tuesday's victory represented Ohio's best offensive output of the 2017-18 campaign as the Bobcats racked up a season-high 99 points. Ohio shot 54.2 percent (32-of-59) from the field -- including a season-best 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from three-point range. The Bobcats' 16 treys tied for the fifth-most in a game in program history. Ohio last drained 16 triples on Feb. 7, 2017, against Central Michigan. The Bobcats also took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, going 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) from the charity stripe.
"Thought we did quite a few things well tonight," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "Obviously, Jordan stole the show with his 38. He was ridiculously on fire. We ran 30 possessions in practice yesterday; he hit five threes in those possessions. It was the first full practice he's been through since before Christmas, so I knew he was feeling pretty good. If this is feeling pretty good, I'd like to see him feel great."
Ohio's win over the Zips snapped a four-game losing skid for the Bobcats.
"I told them to smile and just relax," said Phillips. "This whole time I've been emphatic saying we're this close, this close. This group is a long way from giving up. I think they showed that tonight. We've got two tough ones on the road coming up, so have fun with that. The level of understanding from player one to player eight, nine is increasing every day."
After sitting out Ohio's 101-98 double overtime loss to MAC West Division foe Central Michigan last Saturday (Feb. 3) with a nagging hip injury, Dartis announced his return to the starting lineup in a big way. His 38-point effort marked the most by a Bobcat since former Ohio guard Jaaron Simmons dropped 38 on the Zips on Feb. 4, 2017, in a 85-70 triumph at the Convo. Dartis scored at least 30 points for the first time in his career and became the second Bobcat to reach the 30-point mark this season, joining senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.), who posted a career-high 31 in a 78-68 win over Northern Illinois on Jan. 6, 2018, at the Convo. Dartis went 13-of-20 from the field -- including a scorching 10-of-15 from beyond the arc. His 10 made treys marked the most by a Bobcat since former Ohio guard Javarez Willis drilled 10 in a 95-65 victory over archrival Miami on March 6, 2015. Dartis is now tied with Willis for the third-most three-pointers made in a game in program history. Dartis also finished Tuesday's game with five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 32 minutes of action.
"I say thank you to my teammates for finding me, screening for me and just giving the ball when I was open," said Dartis of his big night. "I just knocked down shots when I was open."
Dartis was one of five Bobcats to finish in double figures in the win over the Zips. Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) went 4-of-4 from the field with a three-pointer and made five of his seven free throw attempts to tally 14 points. He reached double figures in points for the ninth time this season. Block also grabbed five rebounds, dished out a game-high four assists and blocked a shot in 32 minutes of work. Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) shot 5-of-10 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free throw line en route to 13 points. He has now finished in double figures in points a team-high 21 times this season -- including each of the last 15 contests. Kirk also tallied a team-high seven rebounds and chipped in three assists and two steals in 28 minutes. Redshirt sophomore guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) provided 13 points off of the bench, knocking down three three-pointers and making all four of his free throws. He posted his second-straight outing with 13 points and finished in double figures for the fifth time this year. Gollon also notched three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block over 22 minutes. Laster went 3-of-4 from the field with a three and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe en route to 10 points. He has now hit double figures in points 17 times this season. He also recorded a rebound and an assist in 24 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) blocked a game-high five shots and also posted three rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes of work. He has now blocked at least three shots in a game nine times this season -- including blocking at least five shots three times.
"There are a lot of other positives, too," said Phillips of his team's collective effort. "Dougie's blocks were really a factor. He's become a man in there defensively, doing things well. Nice to see our players have that kind of night. Our fans get to enjoy that kind of night. Nice to feel good after a game."
Akron jumped out to an eight-point lead to open the game, utilizing a pair of three-pointers by sophomore forward Daniel Utomi and graduate guard Malcolm Duvivier to take a 10-2 lead with less than three minutes into the contest. Three-pointers by Laster and Block and a layup and a pair of free throws by Dartis powered a 10-0 Ohio run and gave the Bobcats a 12-10 lead with just over 15 minutes left in the half. A layup by freshman guard Virshon Cotton ended Akron's drought and began a stretch in which the Zips outscored the Bobcats by a 12-9 count over the ensuing 4:28. A layup by Duvivier gave the Zips a 22-21 edge with 10:30 to play in the half. It marked Akron's last lead of the game.
The Bobcats broke the contest open with a 13-0 run that saw Dartis begin to catch fire by making three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Dartis drilled five treys in the final 7:16 of the half, and, when the dust settled, the Bobcats took a 56-34 lead into the locker room at halftime behind his 26 first-half points.
Ohio did not let up off the gas in the second half and led by as many as 31 with just over five minutes to play when Block sank a pair of free throws. The Bobcats never led by less than 24 points in the second half.
"We've been in positions where we've let off the gas a little too much after halftime," said Block. "So, we tried to stay locked in and keep that mentality of, 'Let's win every four minutes.'"
Dartis finished the second half with 12 points behind a 4-of-7 effort from beyond the arc. Gollon and Kirk each chipped in eight points over the final 20 minutes of play.
"It's just unconscious shooting, man," said Dartis. "You're not thinking; you're just shooting the ball. Especially when you're hot like that and get into a rhythm. It's just, why not shoot it?"
Utomi led the Zips with 21 points after going 6-of-10 from the field with four three-pointers and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He also notched four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes. Duvivier finished with 15 points off of 5-of-11 shooting from the floor and a 4-of-4 effort from the charity stripe. He also blocked a shot in his 24 minutes of action. Freshman guard Eric Parrish added 13 points off of the bench, going 6-of-9 from the field with a trey. He also grabbed six boards in 21 minutes.
Ohio begins a two-game road tour of the MAC West when it visits Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday (Feb. 10) to face Western Michigan (14-10, 6-5 MAC). Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET at University Arena. The contest will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.