Ohio Wins Conference Opener Over Kent State 59-53

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Ohio won the battle of the top two teams in the Mid-American Conference East Division Wednesday night, defeating Kent State 59-53 in the M.A.C. Center.

It’s rare that a team can shoot 39.3 percent from the floor, 28.6 percent from 3-point range and 61.1 percent from the free throw line and come away with a win, but that’s exactly what Ohio did Wednesday.

The Bobcats took down the Golden Flashes thanks to an extraordinary defensive effort. Ohio swarmed to the ball on defense. Any time a Golden Flash got the ball inside, he was met by multiple Bobcats waiting to contest his shot.

Ohio held Kent State to 28.3 percent shooting from the floor and 18.2 percent from 3-point range. The ‘Cats also blocked eight shots, swiped 10 steals and forced 12 turnovers.

Neither team could get anything going offensively in the first half, and the game went into halftime with Ohio leading 26-19.

The Bobcats held Kent State to 8-of-30 shooting from the field and 2-of-12 shooting from 3-point range in the first half.

Ohio’s activity on defense also helped force six first half Kent State turnovers. The Bobcats then did a solid job of converting those turnovers into points in the first half, as they posted nine points off turnovers.

Maurice Ndour was forced to take a seat on the bench due to foul trouble with 8:39 left in the first half. With Ndour out of the game, Nick Kellogg stepped up and jumpstarted Ohio’s offense. Kellogg hit a 3-pointer and two step-back jump shots for all seven of his first half points.  

Kent State opened up the second half by attacking the rim and getting to the line, which allowed the Flashes to grab the lead from Ohio.

Kellogg’s strong play from the first half carried over into the second half, as he finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds. With the Golden Flashes leading 39-36, Kellogg converted a layup with a little under 11 minutes left to end an 8-0 Kent State run and help Ohio recapture some momentum.

Then trailing 44-42 with 7:24 to play, T.J. Hall swung the ball to Travis Wilkins for an open 3-pointer that gave Ohio the lead back. Wilkins came up big for Ohio again several possessions later when he hit a transition 3-pointer to break a tie and give the Bobcats the 49-46 lead.

Wilkins finished the game with eight points and a career-high seven rebounds. The senior guard is averaging 7.3 points per game in his last three games off the bench for the Bobcats.

Ndour struggled for most of the night, going 4-for-10 from the floor and turning the ball over three times, but broke away for a one-handed slam with about four minutes left in the game to push the Bobcats’ lead to 51-46. The junior, who averaged 17.3 points in his four previous games, finished with only nine points and five rebounds.

The Golden Flashes had several attempts toward the end of the game to spark a comeback, but free throws from Kellogg and Hall sealed the game for Ohio.

Ohio returns home for a matchup with Akron (9-5) on Sunday.