ATHENS, Ohio -- Behind a team-high 16 points from senior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) and a career-high nine assists from freshman guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.), the Ohio men's basketball team (10-8, 2-4 MAC) would recover from an early14-point deficit, defeating Western Michigan (6-13, 0-6 MAC), 81-76, Tuesday evening (Jan. 22) inside the Convocation Center.
"28 field goals and 22 assists, that's the narrative of tonight for me," said fifth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "We talked about moving the ball more. We talked about scoring more off cuts and passes that make other people better, and that's what we got on the offensive end. Defensively, between Flowers hitting bombs and Dugan getting us pretty good inside, I haven't said this in a while, but we did just enough defensively to get by tonight. Our offense actually pulled us out of the fire. I know we can defend. We've defended a good chunk out of the year. This is encouraging because I think that's still our strength. The ball got moved around, we hit shots, because they were good shots. It was a good team win tonight."
Block went 5-of-9 from behind the arc for a team-high 16 points, while compiling five assists and three steals in 28 minutes of play. Preston added six points while compiling his game-high nine assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Redshirt-sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) followed closely behind with 14 points going 4-of-9 from the field and compiled seven rebounds and three assists in his 30 minutes of play. Redshirt-junior guard James Gollon (Stevens Point, Wis.) compiled 13 points going 3-of-4 from behind the arc in his eight minutes of play, while sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) compiled 11 points going 5-of-11 from the field and two assists in 20 minutes of work for Ohio. Redshirt-freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) added a team-high 11 rebounds, a steal and a block in 23 minutes of play for the Bobcats.
"We played off of each other," Block said. "I think we scored on 10-straight possessions at one points. James had a spark off the bench with a couple of threes and Preston came in transition and hit his stride. That's just when we're at our best."
Western Michigan jumped out to an early 10-1 lead to begin the game, going 3-of-3 from the field – including 2-of-2 from behind the arc. Western Michigan would go on to extend the lead to 15-1 holding Ohio to just one free-throw conversion through five minutes of play. Carter was able to get to the rim for the Bobcats first field goal of the game trailing 15-4. Ohio and Western Michigan traded baskets until Ohio generated a 12-0 run which included a free-throw conversion by Kirk, back-to-back three-point baskets by Gollon, a lay-up by senior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) and another three-point basket by Gollon to take a 23-22 lead through 10 minutes of play.
Western Michigan ended the run, converting on a pair of free-throws, but Ohio answered to remain ahead, 25-24, with just under eight minutes remaining in the opening half. Ohio continued to gel through the five-minute mark, starting with a steal by Vander Plas that led to back-to-back three-point baskets by junior guard Antonio Cowart, Jr. (McComb, Miss.) and Block, a big block by Taylor and another three-point basket for Block, giving Ohio its largest lead of the game at 34-24. Western Michigan fought back compiling a 7-2 run in an attempt to slow the Bobcat momentum however, a double technical foul call on WMU's Josh Davis, on top of an initial Western Michigan foul led to six free-throw attempts that were converted to points for Ohio, which brought the Bobcat lead to 42-31 as the two-minute mark approached. To close out the first half, Western Michigan outscored Ohio, 6-2, bringing the score to 44-37 entering the half.
After a slow start, Ohio registered a 53.8 percent field goal percentage going 14-of-26 from the field – including 7-of-14 from three-point range, compared to Western Michigan who registered a 50 percent field goal percentage going 14-of-28 from the field for the half – including 5-of-11 from three-point range. Ohio surpassed Western Michigan with 14 total rebounds and 11 assists compared to 13 total rebounds and eight assists. Ohio and Western Michigan both compiled 14 points in the paint. However, Ohio compiled 16 points off the bench compared to only two points off the bench for Western Michigan. Both the Bobcats and the Broncos forced seven turnovers, but Ohio was able to register 12 points off those turnovers compared to only five points for Western Michigan.
Western Michigan outscored Ohio, 7-2, to begin the second half cutting the Bobcats' lead to two. However, Block answered, draining two three-point baskets to extend the lead to six, with just over 14 minutes remaining. The Broncos scored back-to-back baskets to cut the lead back to two, but Ohio answered with an 11-0 run that extended the lead back to double digits through 10 minutes of second half play.
The Broncos scrambled as time continued to wind down putting together a 9-2 run to shrink the Ohio lead back to seven with under eight minutes remaining in the game. Block went on to register his fifth three-point basket of the game to extend the Ohio lead back to nine. Ohio and Western Michigan traded baskets until the five-minute mark in the second half when the Broncos compiled another 7-2 run to pull within four, bringing the score to 76-72. Both teams continued to trade baskets, which kept Ohio ahead by four, with two minutes remaining in the contest. A pair of free-throws for both teams kept Ohio ahead, 80-76, with under 30 seconds to play. After Block converted one of two free-throw attempts with five seconds left, Western Michigan could not recover, securing an 81-76 victory for the Bobcats.
Ohio finished the game with a 50.9 percent (28-of-55) field goal percentage and 22 assists compared to Western Michigan who finished the game with a 45 percent (27-of-60) field goal percentage and 13 assists. Ohio registered 34 points in the paint and 25 points off the bench compared to 32 points in the paint and eight points off the bench the Broncos. Ohio compiled eight steals and five blocks compared to Western Michigan who compiled five steals and two blocks. Western Michigan barely surpassed Ohio registering 34 total rebounds compared to 31 for the Bobcats.
Michael Flowers led the Broncos in scoring with a game-high 24 points including 6-of-8 from behind the arc. Flowers added a team-high four assists and two steals in his 34 minutes of play. Seth Dugan finished with a double-double, compiling 23 points and a game-high 15 rebounds in his 35 minutes of play. Dugan added three assists and a steal for the Broncos. William Boyer-Richard added 12 points and three-assists in his 33 minutes of play for Western Michigan.
Up next, the Bobcats return to action on Saturday, Jan. 26 when Ohio serves as host to Ball State. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.