Updated Sat, Mar 1, 2014 10:04 pm
The game started just as Ohio hoped it would. Jon Smith won the tip, allowing Ricardo Johnson, who received his first game action since suffering a leg fracture Jan. 4, to take a couple dribbles and then exit the game on senior day.
“There was no way that kid was leaving here without playing in this game,” head coach Jim Christian said about Johnson.
After that, though, nothing went how Ohio hoped it would, with Kent State beating the Bobcats 75-61. Kent State jumped out to the double-digit lead that it held for the majority of the game, thanks to an early 17-0 run in the first half and an abysmal shooting performance from the Bobcats.
Derek Jackson started the run by converting an and-one opportunity, getting a steal and then feeding Kris Brewer for an open 3-pointer. Jackson was the leader for Kent in the first half, scoring 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting. The junior guard was hot from behind the arc, going 2-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half. Jackson finished with 16 points on Saturday.
Jackson wasn't the only Golden Flash that had it going Saturday, as Kent State shot a blistering 64.3 percent from 3-point range and 48.9 percent from the floor. A big reason for Kent State’s offensive efficiency was Ohio’s defense or more accurately, lack thereof.
“In the first half we lost shooters,” Christian said. “We lost Manley, Jackson, wide open3-point shots, so that got them going.”
Devareaux Manley led all scorers with 17 points in the game.
As it has been for most of the season, pick and roll defense was an area of weakness for the Bobcats against Kent State. The man guarding the screener often got strung out trying to hedge on the ball handler, allowing the screener to dive to the basket for a wide open layup.
Offensively, things weren’t any better for Ohio. The Bobcats shot 34.5 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from 3-point range. The lone offensive bright spot was that Ohio got to the free throw line often. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, they only made 18 of their 33 attempts from the stripe.
Ohio got decent looks at the basket, but it simply couldn’t convert. The Bobcats missed at least four easy layups in the first half.
Nick Kellogg uncharacteristically played poorly, fouling out with only two points on 0-for-6 shooting. At one point, Kellogg drove the lane and forced up a shot that got blocked, though he had an open Jon Smith that he could have dumped it off to. After his shot was blocked, Kellogg slapped at the ball, fouling Chris Ortiz out of frustration and summarizing the day for the Bobcats in one play.
The Bobcats find themselves at a turning point in their season after dropping two straight contests with the MAC Tournament looming.
“We’re at that stage where you’ve got to figure out who you want to be,” Christian explained.
With only two regular season games remaining, Ohio needs to win both in addition to Akron losing one of its remaining games to hold onto the fourth seed in the MAC Tournament.