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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio men's basketball team (8-7, 1-2 MAC) hits the road for the second time in Mid-American Conference play when it makes the drive north to Kent, Ohio, to clash with East Division rival Kent State (7-9, 1-2 MAC) in a nationally televised showdown at the M.A.C. Center on Friday (Jan. 12). Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
Friday's game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network, with Dave Ryan and Steve Wolf 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.'
BOBCATS DEALT LOSS BY BALL STATE
Four Bobcats finished in double figures, but Ohio could not withstand a second-half charge from MAC West Division foe Ball State, suffering a 75-68 setback on Tuesday (Jan. 9) at the Convocation Center.
The loss snapped an eight-game series winning streak for the Bobcats against the Cardinals.
Ohio was held to 37.7 percent (23-of-61) despite making 44.4 percent (8-of-18) of its looks from behind the arc. Ball State converted at a 50 percent (28-of-56) rate from the field -- which tied for the best shooting performance by a Bobcat opponent this season. Ohio went 82.4 percent (14-of-17) from the free throw line, but the three misses came late in the second half when the Bobcats needed points.
Freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) led all scorers with 17 points, thanks in large part to sinking a career-high 10 free throws. He finished in double figures in points for a team-high 13th time this year. Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) recorded 13 points to reach double figures for the 11th-straight game he has played in. Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) went 5-of-8 from the field -- including 3-of-4 from three-point range -- to finish with 13 points. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) provided 10 points off of the bench in addition to hauling in six rebounds and tallying two steals in 23 minutes of work. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) recorded eight points, seven rebounds to match junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) for the team and a block in 19 minutes.
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 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 on 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 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 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.
Ohio is holding the opposition to a 42.3 percent field goal percentage in 2017-18, which is good for fourth 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 50th 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 12 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. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 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.
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 16.9 points per game to lead the team and rank eighth among MAC players and is shooting 50.3 percent (93-of-185) from the field to rank second on the squad. He is shooting 40.6 percent (28-of-69) from beyond the arc, which leads the team and ranks seventh among MAC players. Laster's 21.7 points per game over the first two MAC contests of 2018 is good for the second-highest scoring average in the league. He is shooting a scorching 53.5 percent (23-of-43) from the floor in conference play -- including 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from three-point range, which is tied for eighth-best 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 15 games as a Bobcat. Starting at point guard in every contest, he is averaging 14.5 points per game to rank second on the team and is shooting 45.1 percent (74-of-164) from the field. He was the lone Bobcat to tally double-digit points the first six contests of the year. He is also tied for the team lead with 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game and ranks second on the team with 6.1 rebounds 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 theConvo 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.
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 10.7 points per game and is shooting a team-best 53.8 percent (56-of-104) 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 13 games played for Ohio in 2017-18 -- including five of the last seven contests. In 63 games at Florida Gulf Coast, he reached double digits just three times.
For his two-plus year Ohio career, Dartis averages 11.6 points per game and is a 44.9 percent shooter -- including a program-record 44.2 percent success rate from beyond the arc. He has finished in double figures 46 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 eight 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.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN FLASHES
Kent State is off to a 7-9 start to its 2017-18 campaign -- including a 1-2 mark in MAC play after suffering an 80-69 setback to East Division rival Miami on Tuesday at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio. The Golden Flashes' lone conference win of the 2018 league campaign to date came last Saturday at the M.A.C. Center -- an 85-69 victory over MAC West Division foe Central Michigan.
Rob Senderoff is in year No. 7 as head coach of the Golden Flashes. Kent State was picked to finish just ahead of Ohio in the East Division standings in the 2017-18 MAC Preseason Poll, with the Flashes earning 139 points and receiving two-first place votes. The Golden Flashes went 22-14 last year -- including 10-8 in MAC play. As the No. 6 seed, Kent State won four games over six days to capture the league tournament championship. The Golden Flashes survived No. 11-seeded Central Michigan, 116-106, in overtime, then proceeded to knock off the top three seeds en route to a title, producing a 68-65 victory over No. 3-seeded Buffalo, a 68-66 win over No. 2-seeded Ohio and a 70-65 triumph over No. 1-seeded Akron to punch their ticket to the 2017 NCAA Championship field. No. 14-seeded Kent State dropped a 97-80 decision to No. 3-seeded UCLA in the first round of March Madness in Sacramento.
Junior guard Jaylin Walker -- the 2017 MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player and a 2017-18 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team selection -- leads Kent State with 17.3 points per game this year. Joining him in averaging double figures in points are junior center Adonis De La Rosa (11.9 points per game), senior guard Kevin Zabo (10.5) and junior guard Jalen Avery (10.1).
Friday's game marks the 143rd all-time meeting between Ohio and Kent State, with the Bobcats leading the series, 93-49 (.655). Ohio is in search of its first victory at Kent State since a 59-53 win on Jan. 8, 2014, as the Bobcats have walked away with losses in each of their last three trips to the M.A.C. Center -- including a tough 70-67 setback last season on Feb. 25, 2017.
Ohio returns to the friendly confines of the Convo to play host to MAC West Division foe Toledo next Tuesday (Jan. 16) at the Convo. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.