Men’s Basketball: Ohio opens conference play away to Kent State

An extremely difficult nonconference schedule created the illusion that the Ohio men’s basketball team would struggle to earn victories early in the season.

Following a 10-3 record to begin the campaign, the Bobcats will now prepare to take on opponents from the Mid-American Conference.

The Ohio Bobcats will be hoping to start conference play with a bang when they travel to northeast Ohio to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes (9-4) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

In their last outing against UNC-Asheville on Saturday, the ‘Cats came out flat in the first half, but a strong second-half performance handed Jim Christian’s squad a 79-70 away victory. Star forward Maurice Ndour recorded his second double-double of the season with a 24-point, 10-rebound effort, and senior guard Nick Kellogg tied a personal best with 23 points and collected a career-high nine rebounds against the Bulldogs.

With the win, Ohio finished 3-2 away from home in their nonconference schedule. It is the third time in the past four seasons Ohio has achieved the feat.

The Bobcats have won 10 nonconference contests for the third time in the past five seasons, as well.

Last season, the ‘Cats were 2-0 against the Golden Flashes for the first time since the 2000-2001 campaign. If it weren’t for a little bit of luck and poor execution by the Golden Flashes, Kent State could’ve taken both contests last season. The ‘Cats won 69-68 in Kent on Jan. 26,2013, and Stevie Taylor’s game-winning trifecta lifted the Bobcats to a 78-75 victory in overtime in Athens on Feb. 16, 2013.

The ‘Cats have registered a 34-14 record in conference play the past three seasons, which includes a 14-2 mark in 2012-2013. The Green and White have won 20 of its last 21 home contests in the MAC.

The Golden Flashes were picked to finish fourth in the MAC East division in the preseason poll. After starting the season winning eight of its first nine nonconference games, which included victories against Temple and Youngstown State, the Golden Flashes lost three of its past four nonconference games.

Kent State is led by Kris Brewer. The junior guard leads the team with 11.9 points per game and is averaging 2.3 assists per contest. Senior forward Mark Henniger grabs a team-best 5.7 rebounds per game, and senior forward Darren Goodson leads the team with 2.7 assists per game.

For the Bobcats to be successful, they will have to post a high amount of assists. The ‘Cats distributed 16 assists against UNC-Asheville and are averaging 19.0 assists per game over the last two contests. While the number is not as high as it was last season, the Bobcats rank second in the MAC with 14.4 assists per game.

The Bobcats will also have to replace the production of senior forward Ricardo Johnson. The Covington, Ky., native suffered a double leg fracture against UNC-Asheville. Johnson averaged 8.4 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game this season. Johnson also started all 13 games for the ‘Cats.

Kent State is coached by Rob Senderoff. Senderoff, who is close friends with Christian, has compiled a 51-30 record in three seasons with the Golden Flashes.

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