It took a while for coach Saul Phillips to collect his thoughts on the final few minutes.

Ohio had held a comfortable lead for the majority of Sunday's contest against Western Kentucky, but the final few minutes at The Convo proved heart-stopping nonetheless.

"I ... still got Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and I can't comment," Phillips said. "I'm a little jumpy here."

The Bobcats nearly blew a 15-point lead in the final frantic few minutes, but held on for an 89-84 win against the Hilltoppers. Here are three things from Ohio's win:

1. Mike Laster, elder statesman

Mike Laster's senior season couldn't be going any better. He's the team's senior leader on and off the court, routinely drawing a spot in the starting five. 

And through Ohio's (5-4) first nine games, he's proved to be the team's most valuable player thus far. 

He scored a game-high 23 points against Western Kentucky (6-3), adding to his already potent senior year.

"His success out there has been a direct result of the effort that he's put in, and the lack of time he spent pouting early in his career when it wasn't going his way," Phillips said. There are a lot of people in this world that would be well-served, both college students, high school students and adults, patterning themselves after Mike Laster."

Laster is averaging 16.9 points per game this season, but over the last six games has averaged 20.5. Despite injuries up and down the roster, Laster has been the steady rock that Ohio has needed this season. 

"He's accepting the role as being our senior leader, very similar to how Treg (Setty) was his senior year," James Gollon said. "Big time players make big time plays, I think he's starting to really fill that role as a big time player for us."

2. James Gollon, momentum specialist

With Ohio leading 18-9 early in the first half, Gollon took over. 

He made three 3-pointers in a one minute and 40 second stretch, including a block on the defensive end. For a team missing Jordan Dartis, who had the highest 3-point percentage of shooters who had taken more than 10 shots from deep, Gollon's performance was a much-needed outburst.

"I've been telling James lately to shoot the ball more, which he should, because he can shoot it" Laster said. "Just let it fly, it'll handle itself."

Gollon didn't start, but the redshirt sophomore played 22 minutes, third most of the season for him. His 9-0 run propelled the Bobcats to a 14-point lead, enough to keep the Hilltoppers at arm's reach for the entirety of the first half. 

"I think it just comes back to getting comfortable," Gollon said. "But yeah, obviously felt great. I was feeling myself a little bit."

3. Foul trouble equals big trouble 

With 7:47 left to play, Lamonte Bearden walked off the court to jeers from The Convo crowd. He had just committed his fifth foul, and he walked toward the bench with his head down. 

Western Kentucky's point guard averages 29 minutes per game, but played just 12 minutes. He also scored just seven points, despite averaging 12.5 points and nearly four assists per game.

"We've seen what he can do when he was at Buffalo," Phillips said. "I recruited him when I was out North Dakota State, I was his first scholarship offer. I've got a lot of respect for that kid's game. TK can get under your skin now, I think that happened a little bit. There's no question about that."

The Hilltoppers had a shortened bench to begin with, too, as just eight players were in uniform. Big man Dwight Coleby finished with four fouls as well, which kept him planted on the floor for the majority of the second half. 

Jake Ohmer fouled out with 55.5 left in the wild scramble. 

"We beat a really good team out there," Phillips said. "They had to play short-handed, but I think some of that had to do some of that had to do with us. I think we took them out of some of the stuff they wanted to do."

@Andrew_Gillis70

ag079513@ohio.edu

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