Men’s Basketball: Kent State Jumps Out Early, Outlasts Ohio 68-61

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Two streaks would either be continued or snapped after Wednesday night's game between Ohio and Kent State. The Bobcats' four-game winning streak and the Golden Flashes three-game losing streak came to an end as Kent State outlasted Ohio 68-61 at the M.A.C. Center.

The Bobcats dug themselves into a hole early with 15 turnovers, which led to 18 points for Kent State in the first half. Ohio was up 16-15 with 12:11 left in the first stanza, but Kent State answered with a 24-5 run fueled by those turnovers to put the golden Flashes up 39-21 in a 10-minute span and never trailed after that.

"I thought, obviously, the first 15 minutes of the game, that was the game as it turned out," head coach John Groce said. "It's unacceptable to turn the ball over 15 times in a half. Having said that I give [Kent State] a lot of credit. They were aggressive. They came out and played like their head was under water."  

The Golden Flashes did all they could to let Ohio back into the contest; KSU was stuck on 53 points for more than seven minutes and made only one field goal in the final 12 minutes of the game. Nick Kellogg's three-pointer pulled Ohio within three points at 59-56 with 1:47 to play, but a bad foul by Kellogg extended the Flashes lead back to five points, then Walter Offutt fumbled the rock with the 'Cats down six with 33 seconds remaining, which sealed a Kent State victory.

On a night when the Bobcats needed a leader on offense, D.J. Cooper stepped up for Ohio with 23 points on 9-21 shooting. The 'Cats needed everyone of his baskets as Nick Kellogg was the only other Bobcat in double figures with 10.

"At the end of the day, for us to be as good on offense as we ned to be, Keely and Baltic got to play better, they can't get their ball taken. They have to be stronger with the ball and they know that," Groce said.

Reggie Keely may have had one of his worst games as a Bobcat – viewer discretion advised when looking at this next box score line: four points, six turnovers, eight rebounds in 21 minutes on the floor.  

Baltic was not much better. He notched just two points on 1-7 shooting and snagged five rebounds.

The Golden Flashes brought a much more balanced offensive attack into the M.A.C Center fueled by Randal Holt's 20 points. Holt was 5-12 from the field (2-8 from three) and was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Justin Greene followed Holt with 16 points, 12 of which came from the charity stripe (12-16). Chris Evans rounded out Kent State players in double figures with 12. The Golden Flashes remained a perfect 7-0 at home.

Although Ohio made it close late, Groce said his team's inability to flip on the on switch earlier was a mindset thing.

"It's about heart, it's about mindset, and it's about execution, you have to make some plays," Groce said. "I thought [Kent State's] mindset, their disposition, their nastiness and they were making plays…you're going to get that large gap."

Cooper needed five assists to tie and six to break Dennis Whittaker's all-time assist mark of 651 helpers. He recorded four official assists Wednesday, but the scorer's table incorrectly awarded Walter Offutt an assist on an inbounds pass from Cooper to T.J. Hall in the first half. Hall's three pointer made it 13-11 Kent State with 14:17 left in the first half. At the moment, Cooper is still one shy of tying Whittaker's all-time assists record.

Up next for Ohio is a trip to Oxford to face its rival Miami on Friday at 7 p.m. This game now has serious MAC tournament standings significance, but if Ohio wins at Miami on Friday it can not be any worse than a four seed, which gives the Bobcats a bye into the quarterfinals.

If the Bobcats win and Akron beats Kent State, the 'Cats would be the MAC's 3-seed.

If Ohio beats Miami and both Buffalo and Kent State lose, Ohio would get the 2-seed and advance directly to the semifinals.