After the Bobcats . . .
Ball State fifth-year senior guard/forward Ryan Weber knocked down a three-pointer -- the eighth made triple of the second half for the hosts -- to give the Cardinals a 73-72 edge with 4:21 remaining.
A personal foul by Ball State junior guard Francis Kiapway, followed by a technical foul by redshirt sophomore guard Tayler Persons on Ohio's ensuing possession, allowed sophomore guard Jordan Dartis and redshirt junior guard Jaaron Simmons combine to make three-straight free throws to give the Bobcats a 75-73 lead.
Ohio went back up by four after Simmons was fouled again on the Bobcats' next trip down the floor and converted two more freebies.
Weber and junior guard Mike Laster traded layups on the next two possessions, allowing Ohio to retain a four-point edge. Ball State sophomore center Trey Moses cut the Bobcats' lead back down to two with a layup with 2:24 left.
Ohio, however, managed to get stops on Ball State's final three possessions. With 11.8 left on the clock and Ball State holding the ball, freshman forward Jason Carter and Dartis each came up with key deflections. Moses got a potential game-tying jump shot off at the buzzer, but his attempt was off the mark, allowing the Bobcats to hang on for their fourth MAC road win of the year.
The Bobcats survived the evaporation of a big lead on the road just over a week after a similar situation went the other way. Ohio dropped a 90-85 contest at Western Michigan on Jan. 31 in Kalamazoo, Mich., after watching a 21-point first-half lead slip away.
"We made a defensive play, and we got two deflections on that possession before they ultimately got their shot off," said third-year head coach Saul Phillips. "You can't give up these kind of leads all the time, and I know that, but the bungee cord was just short enough that we didn't splatter on the concrete this time. I'm proud of our guys."
Dartis led Ohio with 16 points, going 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. He also chipped in four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 35 minutes. Dartis has finished with double figures scoring in each of Ohio's last 13 games.
"When it got down to the final minutes, I think we just wanted it more," said Dartis. "We played with a higher energy and a higher intensity."
Carter nearly achieved a double-double with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds. He also added a block and a steal over 31 minutes.
Laster tallied 14 points to match his career high, with 11 coming in the first half. He also posted three rebounds in 31 minutes of work off of the bench.
Simmons and sophomore guard/forward Gavin Block each finished with 13 points. Simmons also dished out a team-high five assists to go along with two boards over 37 minutes while Block recorded four rebounds, two steals and assist and a block in 32 minutes.
FIRST HALF ACTION
Ohio came out firing in the first half, shooting 62.1 percent (18-of-29) from the field -- including 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from beyond the arc -- while holding Ball State to just a 34.6 percent (9-of-26) field goal percentage in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Ball State junior guard/forward Sean Sellers made a three with 13:32 left in the first half to cut Ohio's lead to four at 14-10, but the Bobcats proceeded to surge to a 32-11 run over the next 10-plus minutes to go up by a game-high 25 points.
The Cardinals did not go quietly, though, outscoring the Bobcats by 17 points in the second half. Ball State scored 15 points off of six Ohio turnovers and dominated the glass in the final 20 minutes of play, 20-14 -- including seven offensive rebounds. After shooting just 3-of-8 from deep in the first half, Ball State went 8-of-15 from three-point land in the second half. Moses provided the Cardinals with 11 points during the comeback while Kiapway and Sellers each totaled nine and Weber added eight.
Moses recorded a double-double for Ball State with a game-high 17 points and 12 rebounds. He also tallied three assists and two blocks in 34 minutes.
Sellers went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to 14 points. He also contributed three rebounds in 31 minutes of work for the Cardinals.
Persons and Kiapway each scored 12 points for Ball State. Persons distributed a game-high six assists and notched four rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes while Kiapway logged two rebounds, an assist and a block over 27 minutes.
Weber shot 4-of-8 from the field -- including 3-of-6 from long range -- to finish with 11 points. He also posted an assist and a steal in 31 minutes for the Cardinals.
(Courtesy of Ohio Athletics)