Teyvion Kirk drives to the basket in a game against Kent State on January 15, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Wielgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Men’s Basketball: ‘Cats Lose Close Game At Kent State

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KENT, OH — Ohio played one of their most complete offensive games of the season on Tuesday night.

The Bobcats shot the ball nine percentage points better, 52.9, than their season average of 43.4 and shot nearly 15 percentage points better, 44.4, from beyond the arc than their season average of 30 percent. Ohio turned the ball over just 11 times, their lowest total of the season.

So, how did they end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded?

Kent State hauled in 21 offensive rebounds and scored 23 points off those second chances.

The Bobcats (12-15, 4-11 MAC) fell to the Golden Flashes (20-8, 9-6 MAC) 78-73 in a hard fought battle in the M.A.C. Center.

The game didn’t always look promising for the ‘Cats, however. In the first 12 minutes of the game, Ohio had managed just 12 points and attempted just 10 field goals and found themselves trailing by 12.

But just then, the offense began to come alive for the Bobcats, spurred on by threes from Gavin Block and Jason Preston, Ohio went on a 12-4 run to cut their deficit back to four with just over eight minutes to play in the first half.

It was evident, even in the early part of the game, that the Bobcats were going to pass the ball around as much as possible to try to find open shots against a Kent State defense that has struggled to get stops all season. Early on, Ohio was finding more turnovers than buckets, but that changed during that run midway through the first half.

By the end of the game, the Bobcats had amassed 22 assists on the team’s 27 made field goals, which gave them their highest assist rate, 81.5 percent, of the season. The 22 assists also tied the season high in that stat set back on January 22 against Western Michigan.

The Bobcats went into the locker room at halftime trailing by four, 35-31, after Jason Carter sunk a three as the horn. The Flashes, however, started the second half on a 12-6 run to push their lead back out to double digits with 13:44 to play.

But the Bobcats bounced back again. Over the next 5:47, Ohio outscored Kent State 19-8 to take their first lead of the second half, 56-55. Carter led the way during that span, scoring seven points.

The ‘Cats took their biggest lead of the game a few minutes later when Connor Murrell knocked down a triple to give Ohio a 61-57 lead with 6:11 to play.

However, Kent State quickly erased that lead. On consecutive trips down the floor, the Flashes hit threes. Jaylin Walker hit the first and Jalen Avery knocked one down 24 seconds later.

The Bobcats led, albeit brief, one more time when Teyvion Kirk got a layup to go with 2:32 to play to put Ohio on top 69-68, but Kent State would close the game on a 10-6 run to pick up their ninth conference win and complete the season sweep of the Bobcats.

Ohio finished with four players in double figures. Carter led the team with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists. The redshirt sophomore forward also went 3-of-3 from long distance.

Preston stuffed his box score, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Doug Taylor tossed in 12 points and Kirk added 11.

Kent State got 23 points from Walker, 15 points from Antonio Williams and 10 from Akiean Frederick.

The Bobcats will return to northeast Ohio on Saturday to take on Akron. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.