[Ayden Crowley | WOUB]

Second half spark leads Ohio to comeback win over Kent State

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — After a sluggish first half, Ohio (14-12, 8-5 MAC) swung the momentum in the second and made a comeback in front of an electric Convocation Center crowd leading to a 63-57 win over Kent State (13-13, 6-7 MAC).

The start was certainly not what Jeff Boals was hoping for in a massive conference collision. Both the Bobcats and Golden Flashes are locked in the middle of a tight MAC standings picture. Ohio sat in fourth coming into Tuesday’s battle while Kent State sat in sixth. With the MAC tournament now less than a month away, every conference matchup holds extra weight. 

While the first half didn’t go the way Ohio was hoping only scoring 27 points and shooting 9-25 from the field, Boals credited the Kent State play. 

“Their toughness level, their energy level was better than ours,” Boals said. “We just came into the second half fortunate to be down six.” 

It was a physical first half resulting in constant scrums for 50-50 balls with both teams going at it. With Ohio struggling to find consistency on the offensive end, Kent State was able to build a lead after 20 minutes.  

Led by the guard duo Giovanni Santiago and Jalen Sullinger, who contributed seven and six points respectively. Kent State also out-rebounded Ohio 21-15 in the opening half allowing for them to be in control at the break.  

“At halftime coach just talked about energy and effort, and how it exceeded ours,” fifth year Miles Brown said. “(In the second half) we made a bunch of energy plays; we got the 50-50 balls that we needed.” 

Ohio guard Miles Brown (2) lines up a free throw against the Kent State Golden Flashes.
Ohio guard Miles Brown (2) lines up a free throw against the Kent State Golden Flashes. [Andrew Bowlby | WOUB]
Ohio pivoted from the second lowest scoring first half of the year. In the second, even though shots weren’t falling for the Bobcats, they were making plays to build the momentum. Every time Ohio looked like it was going to break through and take the lead, the Golden Flashes were able to respond and push the lead back up to a few possessions. 

Finally, with 4:45 remaining in the game, Aidan Hadaway sank the second of two free throws to give Ohio the 51-50 lead. It was the first time the Bobcats had held the lead since midway through the first half.

Although Kent State had thwarted off the comeback effort for the first 15 minutes of the second, Ohio senior guard Jaylin Hunter knew if the Bobcats did take the lead, they wouldn’t let it go.

“Knowing that if we got the lead, we had a pretty good chance of keeping it,” Hunter said.

And Hunter was right. After taking the lead Brown put his stamp on the game by knocking down a pair of threes in the final 2:30.  

The Bobcats’ final surge also got a jolt from sophomore Ajay Sheldon. During the second half Ohio comeback, Sheldon hit a critical three to trim into the lead, drew a charge and recorded a chase-down block. All to propel the Bobcats to a much-needed win after back-to-back losses. 

“I like our guys where they’re at right now. Even (with) the couple losses we’ve had,” Boals said. “They’re locked in.” 

Ohio also did what they do best against Kent State: limit turnovers.  

The Bobcats rank top in the MAC when it comes to limiting turnovers at just 9.6 per game (Ohio is also tied for the 15th fewest in the country). Considering the Golden Flashes are the best at forcing turnovers in the conference, Ohio only having eight on the night stood out to Boals. 

“They scored zero points off turnovers, so did a great job of taking care of the basketball” Boals said. 

Things won’t get any easier for Kent State as they will stay on the road and face the conference leading Akron Zips on Feb. 23. Ohio, who is only 2-7 on the road this season, will be in DeKalb on Feb. 24 to face Northern Illinois.