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It was supposed to be one of Ohio’s toughest non-conference games, and a rematch between Lamonte Bearden and Jaaron Simmons.
Neither one of those happened.
Simmons isn’t a Bobcat anymore and the Ohio Bobcats (5-4) had no problem with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-3) on Sunday afternoon. Ohio defeated Western Kentucky 89-84.
Mike Laster hit a pair of free throws to give Ohio a 7-6 lead. Ohio didn’t look back and Western Kentucky didn’t lead again.
Just over three minutes into the game, Bearden was called for a technical foul. The foul was his second of the half. Bearden had to sit for the next seven minutes. With 8:16 to go, Bearden picked up his third foul. He sat the rest of the half and fouled out in the second half.
Those Laster free throws were a part of a 13-2 run to give Ohio a 16-6 lead just six minutes into the game. Back-to-back triples by James Gollon put Ohio up 14. Gollon had a career high 13 points.
Ohio kept the lead above 10 for the rest of the half. A Gollon layup gave Ohio a 40-26 lead. Western Kentucky scored seven of the last nine points of the half and led 42-30.
A 6-0 run to cut it to 42-36. That’s the closest they got until late in the game.
Six points by Kevin Mickle sparked a 13-3 run, giving Ohio a 55-39 advantage.
The two teams traded points for the next seven minutes. A Laster three-point play gave Ohio a 73-58 lead with 5:43 to go in the game.
Then, Western Kentucky woke up. The Hilltoppers outscored Ohio 10-2 and the once 13-point lead was down to five. The two teams traded points until four straight by Western Kentucky cut it to three. But Ohio hit their free throws and won the game.
Ohio was without junior guard Jordan Dartis but got contributions from everyone on the roster. Five players were in double figures. Laster had 23 points. Kirk and Mickle had 17 points each and Jason Carter had 12 points.
For Western Kentucky, Taveion Hollingsworth led the way for Western Kentucky with 19 points. Justin Johnson had 16-points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Dwight Coleby had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Ohio has a few days off before they travel to Huntington, West Virginia to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday.