KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Ohio men's basketball team (8-6, 0-1 MAC) opened Mid-American Conference play on the road Saturday afternoon, falling, 77-65, to Western Michigan (8-6, 1-0 MAC) inside University Arena.
"They came out and punched us in the mouth, and then punched us in the mouth again and then they did it a third time, and before you knew it we were down 13-2," first-year head coach Jeff Boals said. "That's what Western does. Their best offense is transition and getting to the foul line. Obviously, if you give them 24 free throws and they're averaging 17 makes, you aren't going to win those games."
Ohio was led by redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) who scored 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) added 14 points and sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla). scored 11 points and dished out four assists. Redshirt junior forward Connor Murrell (Sioux City, Iowa) scored seven points and had seven rebounds in his first game of the season.
Overall, Ohio shot 34 percent from the field, 24 percent from three-point range and were 9-of-11 from the free throw line, while Western Michigan shot 43 percent from the field, 35 percent from three-point range and were 24-of-28 from the free throw line. Ohio out-rebounded the Broncos, 42-38, while both teams dished out 10 assists.
For WMU, the Broncos has four players score in double figures and were led by B Artis White and Brandon Johnson who both scored 18 points, followed by Titus Wright who added 16 points and Michael Flowers who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Western Michigan opened the game with the first 13 points, taking a 13-0 lead until Vander Plas got the Bobcats on the board with a layup, taking the game to the first media timeout with Ohio trailing., 13-2.
Out of the timeout, the Bobcats caught fire from three, with Preston hitting the first, followed by back-to-back threes from freshman forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) in his first game back from injury. Vander Plas then drained a three of his own, cutting the WMU lead to 15-14 going into the next media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bobcats took their first lead of the game on a layup from graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria), giving Ohio a 16-15 lead. After WMU timed the game on a free throw, Vander Plas gave the Bobcats the lead back on a layup. WMU then went on a 10-0 to take a seven-point lead, before back-to-back layups from freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio), stopped the run to cut the WMU lead to 27-22 going into the final media timeout of the half.
Out of the timeout, two free throws and a layup from WMU increased their lead to nine, before a layup from freshman guard Miles Brown (Rochester, N.Y.) cut the lead to 24-31 with 2:14 left. However, the Broncos registered another layup at the end of the half, sending Ohio to the locker room down 33-24 at the half.
At the half, the Bobcats shot 25 percent from the field, 21 percent from three-point range and did not attempt a free throw, while Western Michigan shot 37 percent from the field, 20 percent from three-point range and were 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Ohio out rebounded the Broncos, 28-21, while both teams recorded four assists.
McDay opened the scoring for Ohio in the second half with a layup on Ohio's second trip down the court. Vander Plas followed up McDay's layup with a three, cutting the WMU lead to 33-29. After WMU went up 10 with back-to-back three-pointers, back-to-back layups from Preston cut the WMU lead to 39-33. After a three from Dartis cut the lead to five, a layup and free throw from WMU extended the WMU lead to 44-36 going into the media timeout.
Ohio and WMU started to trade baskets out of the timeout, until a layup and a free throw from Murrell cut the WMU lead to two with 11:40 left. After WMU went back up four, a three from Dartis and a layup from Vander Plas, helped set up Murrell for a dunk that tied the game at 53-53 going into the under-eight media timeout.
After WMU went back up three, two free throws from Vander Plas cut the lead to two, before a layup and a free throw from Dartis gave the Bobcats a 58-57 lead. However, WMU hit back-to-back threes to take a 63-59 lead.
After WMU took the six-point lead, the Bobcats would be able to cut it to two with a layup from Dartis, however, that is close as Ohio would get, falling by the final of 77-65.
The Bobcats continue MAC play on Tuesday, Jan. 7 when Ohio hosts Eastern Michigan. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.