Red-hot shooting lifts Ohio past Kent State

Kent State senior guard Kevin Zabo gets fouled driving to the basket during the Flashes’ 88-76 loss to Ohio at the Convocation Center Feb. 20, 2018. 

Cameron Hoover

Kent State junior point guard Jalen Avery had a very simple explanation for the Flashes’ loss at Ohio Tuesday night.

“I’m really disappointed in our defense,” said Avery, who scored nine points and led the Flashes with seven rebounds and four assists. “I didn’t feel like we played hard enough on defense.

“Any time someone scores 88 points, it’s going to be hard to beat them.”

Avery was right; Kent State’s (13-15, 7-8 Mid-American Conference) lethargic defense was not enough to beat the Bobcats (12-15, 5-10 MAC).

Ohio’s Jordan Dartis made five three-pointers en route to a game-high 20 points to lead the Bobcats to an 88-76 win.

Dartis came out on fire, sinking four shots from beyond the arc in the first half to help the Bobcats to a 47-39 lead at the break. The half was Kent State’s second-worst defensive first period of the season, only behind giving up 48 in a nonconference thrashing against Xavier.

Kent State cut the Ohio lead to two points after a Kevin Zabo layup with 9:12 left capped a 9-0 run, but the course of the game changed after Bobcats coach Saul Phillips called a timeout. Gavin Block, who had previously left the contest with what seemed to be a gruesome hand injury, returned to the game, immediately scoring a hook shot.

In the next minute and 32 seconds, Ohio scored the next eight points to put the game out of reach. Kent State never led.

“That was the stretch of the game that gave them the cushion they needed to win,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “Had we been able to get a couple more stops it might be a different outcome.”

Senderoff was also disappointed in his team’s defensive effort.

“We’ve got to be able to guard better,” Senderoff said. “Our transition (defense) wasn’t good to begin the game. … I don’t want to take any credit away from (Ohio) for how they played tonight — 19 assists, shot 55 percent from the field. … I’m disappointed because we’ve shown we can defend better for longer stretches of time.”

Jaylin Walker (12 points on 5-for-17 shooting, 1-for-9 from three-point range) and Kevin Zabo (12 points, 4-for-14 from the field and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc) struggled for the Flashes.

“We scored enough points tonight, but the way we scored them — we need to move the basketball more to get better looks for guys,” Senderoff said. “We missed some I think Kevin would’ve normally made and Jaylin would’ve normally made, but tonight it wasn’t their night.”

Senior guard Desmond Ridenour scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three-point range, off the bench to try to give the Flashes a spark.

“The clock’s ticking on him, right, when he’s a senior,” Senderoff said. Ridenour has four regular season games left in his career before the MAC tournament. “He’s trying to play with some urgency. I thought he played well tonight, competed.”  

Adonis De La Rosa led the Flashes with 13 points.

Teyvion Kirk scored 17 points for the Flashes, picking up four rebounds and four assists. James Gollon and Kevin Mickle each added 13 points, Mike Laster contributed 11 and Doug Taylor rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10.

Two of Kent State’s remaining three games are at home, and the other is across town at Akron in the second iteration of this year’s Wagon Wheel. Avery said he and the team are looking forward to spending most of the rest of the season at home, where the Flashes are 10-3 this season.

“Definitely, we just want to go into the tournament with some momentum,” Avery said. “Hopefully, these last three games, we can get these three wins and give us some momentum.”

Kent State returns home to host Bowling Green (16-12, 7-8 MAC) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. The Falcons won the first meeting, 70-62, after trailing by 19 points in the first half.

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].