OXFORD, Ohio — In a scarcely filled Millett Hall, Ohio coach Saul Phillips paced back and forth with his arms crossed in front of his bench.
Phillips watched his team blow a 17-point lead when the Bobcats allowed a 14-0 RedHawks run, cutting Ohio's lead to three.
Phillips can thank Jason Carter and Mike Laster — two unlikely heroes who have blossomed in the latter portion of Ohio’s season.
Carter and Laster ignited a 20-7 run over six minutes in the second half to help push Ohio (18-8, 10-5 Mid-American Conference) past its rival Miami, 79-62 on Tuesday night.
Carter finished with a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds, as Laster finished with 14 points off the bench. Jaaron Simmons finished with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, despite six turnovers.
“Just another game in the MAC,” Carter said with a bruise under his right eye. “It’s not going to be a soft game out there.”
Laster’s contribution saw the flex player dissect Miami’s zone defense with drives to the rim, turning the Redhawks (10-18, 3-12 MAC) around with skip passes. Five of Laster’s six points came within the arc, and he lead his team with three assists.
Laster's drive and basket furthers Ohio's lead. Jaaron Simmons finishes and-1 and Ohio leads Miami 60-42. pic.twitter.com/SiieL6waAN
— Luke O'Roark (@LukeOroark) February 22, 2017
“He’s absolutely huge and right now, the thing that strikes me, is that it looks like he's been doing for his whole career," Phillips said.
For Miami fans, the only real component of Tuesday night’s game they could cheer about was halftime’s jump-roping Firecrackers performance.
Ohio fans, however, had plenty to grin about.
From a Jordan Dartis halfcourt 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer to Simmons staring down two hecklers after a made free throw, Ohio won its fourth-consecutive MAC game despite a sloppy 17 turnovers.
“It didn’t matter, really,” Simmons said of the hecklers, who openly admitted to betting on Simmons’ missing his free throws. “It’s funny to hear them talking. We don’t usually hear them talking when there’s more fans, but they knew who I was. I’m from around this area.”
Simmons — who’s from Dayton — said being surrounded by hometown family didn’t affect his approach to Tuesday’s game. Simmons had numerous errors in the halfcourt, one pass even flying out into Millett Hall’s stands.
But in overall scope, Simmons cared about one thing Tuesday: the Bobcats holding onto their No. 2 seed within the MAC.
With the win, Ohio maintains its second seed as its matchup with Buffalo (15-13, 9-6 MAC) next Tuesday may hold implications for Ohio’s playoff chances.
Regardless, the Bobcats, and Phillips, survived “not beating Miami."
“Just played a bad game," Simmons said. "I felt like it was one of the worst games of the year as a whole. One of mine as well. But we came out with a win on the road (and) hold that second-place spot.”