ATHENS, Ohio – Led by 20-point performances by both sophomore guard Jason Preston and redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas, the Ohio men's basketball team returned to action on Saturday (Dec. 8), defeating Tennessee Tech, 81-54, inside the Convocation Center.
"It's tough," head coach Jeff Boals said. "We had eight scholarship players dressed and when Nolan (Foster) went down we had seven scholarship players and two walk-ons. We always talk about opportunity and being prepared. It's tough because I've been in that situation where you sit the bench and don't play, but at this level and this game, you're an ankle sprain away from that opportunity. I think guys stepped up and we're going to learn from it and watch film and continue to work with those guys and continue to get better."
Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) led the way with 21 points, going 8-of-16 from the field and 3-of-7 from three-point range, while grabbing 11 rebounds, dishing out four assists and grabbing four steals. Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished with 20 points, going 7-of-11 from the field, while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out eight assists. Graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria), finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) finished with nine points.
Overall, Ohio shot 48.4 percent from the field, 36.0 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line, while Tennessee Tech shot 36.5 percent from the field, 19.0 percent from three-point range and 75.0 percent from the free throw line.
Ohio out rebounded the Golden Eagles, 43-31, while the Bobcats dished out 20 assists compared to the nine from Tennessee Tech. Ohio also forced 15 turnovers and scored 21 points off of them, while also scoring 40 points in the paint.
For Tennessee Tech, Jr. Clay finished with 14 points, while Amadous Sylla finished with nine points and five rebounds.
The Bobcats opened the game on an 11-3 run, with Vander Plas, Preston, Ogbonda and McDay all scoring to give Ohio an 11-3 lead going into the first media timeout. Tennessee Tech cut the lead to three with 12:52 left, however, a three from Vander Plas extended Ohio's lead to six going into the next timeout. Out of the timeout, Ohio and the Golden Eagles traded baskets, with a Preston three with 8:33 left to give Ohio a 23-14 lead.
Over the next four minutes, Ohio went on an 11-5 run to take a 34-19 lead. A three from redshirt freshman Mason McMurray (Stow, Ohio), extended Ohio's lead to 37-21, with the two teams trading baskets over the next three minutes to give Ohio a 39-25 lead going into halftime.
At the half, Ohio shot 44.8 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three-point range and 72.7 percent from the free throw line, while Tennessee Tech shot 33.3 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free throw line. Ohio out rebounded the Golden Eagles, 25-14, with Ohio dishing out eight assists to TTU's five.
Ogbonda recorded the first points of the half for the Bobcats, with the Golden Eagles cutting the Ohio lead to 13 with 17:51 left. With the teams trading baskets over the next five minutes, Tennessee Tech cut the Bobcats lead to 12 with 12:28 left, before a three from Preston gave the Bobcats a 15-point lead going into the under-12 media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Golden Eagles cut the Ohio lead to 11 with 9:47 left, however, the is as close as Tennessee Tech got the score, with Ohio going on a 12-3 run to put the Bobcats up 71-49 lead with five minutes to go. Both teams traded baskets over the remaining five minutes, with freshman guard Michael Brown, Jr. (Rochester, N.Y.) hitting a three and sophomore guard John Tenerowicz (Cleveland, Ohio) recording a layup to help secure Ohio's 81-54 victory.
Up next, the Bobcats will have a week of for finals, before returning to action on Tuesday, Dec. 17 when Ohio hosts Big Ten foe Purdue. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. inside the Convocation Center where it can be seen on ESPN2.