After a stretch of subpar shooting, Ohio found a way to get back in the black.
The Bobcats kept pace with a sharp-shooting Kent State squad in the first half and quickly put the contest out of reach after the break as they rolled to an 87-65 win.
Ohio (14-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) came within a point of its season high while breaking in its new black uniforms.
Nick Kellogg’s 5-for-7 performance from 3-point territory paced the Bobcats from long range. The team shot more than 50 percent from beyond the arc for only the second time this season after shooting only 19 percent on 3-pointers in its past four games.
“I only knew it was a matter of time. These guys are too good of players,” coach John Groce said. “We just stuck with it. I thought our shot selection tonight was excellent.”
With the win, Ohio moves into a four-way tie for second place in the MAC East. Akron’s loss to Buffalo means five of the division’s six teams could be in first place after Saturday’s matchups.
The Golden Flashes (12-5, 2-2 MAC) were on fire in the first half and hit 70 percent of their shots from the field. But the Bobcats still took a 41-38 lead into the break behind 6-for-12 shooting on 3-pointers and a 9-1 offensive rebounding margin.
After a Kent State basket to open the second half, Ohio went on a 21-0 run to put the game out of reach. Kellogg, D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt all hit deep 3-pointers to complement strong play from the team’s forwards.
“I thought that we played with a lot of toughness, a lot of togetherness,” Groce said. “I thought the key stretch of the game was the first 10 minutes of the second half when our defense was off the charts.”
Unlike Saturday’s game against Akron, Ohio stayed out of foul trouble and kept Kent State from making ends meet at the free-throw line.
That also allowed Ohio to keep its starters in the game and to find the rhythm that was lacking against the Zips. Four starters and sixth man Reggie Keely finished in double figures. Offutt and Cooper led the way with 19 and 18 points, respectively.
“Coach gives us a lot of freedom offensively, so it was only a matter of time before we made some shots,” Offutt said.
Opposing forwards and centers had tormented Ohio in its previous conference losses. But the Bobcats locked down Golden Flashes big man Justin Greene, who took only four shots from the field. He finished with 10 points,
while forward Chris Evans scored 18.
Ohio grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 22 second-chance points. The Bobcats also tallied 35 points in the paint.
“We turned it over. They got offensive rebounds,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “They scored in transition, and we didn’t respond well.”
Next up for Ohio is a home contest Saturday against rival Miami. The RedHawks are 1-3 in the MAC but are looking for their third straight win against the Bobcats.
“It’s a logjam in the East,” Groce said. “Our guys like competitive situations. They like challenges.”