Jordan Dartis has never won a defensive honor in his time at Ohio. Opposing teams know him for shooting off screens, not fighting through them.
But on Tuesday, Dartis knew he would silenced Kent State guard Jaylin Walker the second Walker started heaving with Dartis’ hand in his face.
“You can just tell he started to get frustrated,” Dartis said after the Bobcats defeated the Golden Flashes 88-76 at The Convo. “He started forcing it a little bit. That’s when I knew he was gonna play like that the rest of the night.”
Walker entered Tuesday’s game as the fourth-leading scorer in the Mid-American Conference (17.5 points per game). Dartis held him to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
What did he do that the rest of the conference hasn't?
“Just guarding him,” Dartis said. “Sat on his right hand.”
Dartis used his knowledge of Walker’s preference to drive right to beat Walker to driving lanes. Where Walker would normally zip past his defender, he ran into Dartis’ chest.
Since the easy baskets didn’t materialize, Walker tried from behind the 3-point line. Dartis shadowed Walker around most screens and, when he couldn't, communicated the proper switch to his teammates.
Despite not practicing the previous two days, Dartis knew coach Saul Phillips’ plan to prevent Kent State from springing its best player free.
“For him to absorb a game plan from literally just sitting there and watching it,” Phillips said, “that’s a guy who’s a smart basketball player.”
Too smart for Walker on Tuesday night, to say the least. As the misses mounted, Walker became impatient. He tried to jump-start his offense with contested 3-pointers, including a fadeaway from the corner in the second half.
All to no avail. He converted one 3-pointer all game after leading the conference in 3-pointers per game coming into his matchup with Dartis.
And that was just one side of the court. Dartis coupled his suffocation of Walker with a team-high 20 points — 16 in the first half — with Walker as his primary defender for much of the night.
He did so with a still-ailing hip. Phillips said the extra treatment Dartis has received in recent weeks has helped, but Dartis is still hurting.
“I can’t say enough about the kid,” Phillips said. “He is literally throwing it all out there for the program. He’s definitely earning everything he’s getting right now.”
What he got Tuesday included five 3-pointers and his third 20-plus point game in his last five games. Offensive performances like that are why Dartis was selected as a preseason all-conference guard. He’ll be remembered at Ohio as one of the most prolific shooters in school history.
But at least until the next time they play, Walker will remember him as more than that. He'll remember Dartis as a two-way terror.
Dartis made sure of it.
“Killing the opponent is a great feeling,” Dartis said. “When you’re locking somebody up and you‘re killing them on offense, the feeling is just indescribable.”