Ohio University (10-3) at Kent State (9-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 8, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The MAC (6,327) -- Kent, Ohio. Television: TWC Sports, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Ohio 7-1, Kent State 7-2. Away Record: Ohio 3-2, Kent State 2-2. Neutral Record: Ohio 0-0, Kent State 0-0. Conference Record: Ohio 0-0, Kent State 0-0. Series Record: Ohio leads, 90-44.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio University Bobcats will try to win their fourth straight game on Wednesday afternoon when they open up Mid-American Conference action against the Kent State Golden Flashes at the MAC.
Ohio was outstanding during its non-conference schedule, winning 10 of its first 13 games. The Bobcats most recently downed UNC Asheville on the road Saturday afternoon, 79-70, to give them three consecutive victories and allow them to improve to 3-2 on the road.
While Kent State has lagged a step behind Ohio through the first two months of the season, it has been strong in its own right with a 9-4 overall record, including a 7-2 ledger at home. The Golden Flashes have been trending in the wrong direction of late however, as they have lost three of their last four, including a 73-68 setback at Princeton on Dec. 31.
These intrastate rivals have gotten to know each other well over the years, with Ohio holding to a 90-44 lead over Kent State, which includes a series sweep in 2012-13 by a combined four points.
The Bobcats struggled in the first half of their latest contest, trailing UNCA by 12 at intermission, but they turned things around by outshooting their opponent from the field in the second stanza, 52.2 percent to 22.2 percent, as they ran away with the nine-point victory. The squad also benefited from an outstanding 30-of-34 showing at the free-throw line. Maurice Ndour scored a career-high 24 points in the win while making it a double-double with 10 rebounds. Nick Kellogg was also outstanding, matching a career best with 23 points, while T.J. Hall poured in 12 points coming off the bench.
Ohio has grown accustomed to impressive all-around performances this season, as it shoots 44.6 percent from the floor and holds opponents to a meager 39.1 percent, resulting in a scoring margin of +8.3. Ndour is the catalyst in the frontcourt, shooting 52.6 percent from the floor for 14.9 ppg, while adding 7.9 rpg and 2.1 bpg to boot. Kellogg (14.7 ppg) is the only other player to average in double figures, although Ricardo Johnson, Stevie Taylor, John Smith and Hall all put up between 7.8 and 8.4 ppg.
The Golden Flashes trailed Princeton by double figures early in the second half of their most recent game, but while they were able to climb all the way back to take a one-point lead with under a minute remaining on a Mark Henniger free throw, the Tigers answered 10 seconds later with two free throws of their own to take the lead for good. The Flashes shot less than 40 percent from the field in the setback and were outscored at the charity stripe, 29-14. Devareaux Manley shot 4-of-8 from 3-point range for 17 points off the bench, Kris Brewer netted 15 points, Derek Jackson scored 12 and Henniger collected 10 rebounds.
On the season, Kent State is built similarly to Ohio, as it shoots 43.6 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from 3-point range and 72.2 percent from the foul line for 75.0 ppg, which is 6.1 ppg more than it allows on the other end of the floor. All five starters score at least 9.0 ppg, led by Brewer and his 11.9 ppg. Jackson brings 11.5 ppg to the table and swipes nearly two steals per contest. Darren Goodson scores 10.4 ppg but is heavily reliant on volume, as he shoots less than 36 percent from the field.
These two evenly-matched teams should be in for a back-and-forth battle, and while Kent State figures to have an edge playing on its home floor, Ohio has stepped up to the challenge on the road this season and should find a way to keep its winning streak alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio University 70, Kent State 69
01/08 10:36:07 ET