AMHERST, N.Y. – Despite career days by redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) and sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.), the Ohio men's basketball team (9-8, 1-3 MAC) dropped a 76-73 heartbreaker to Mid-American Conference East foe Buffalo (11-6, 2-2 MAC) Tuesday night (Jan. 14) inside Alumni Arena.
"I thought we competed. That's something we didn't do the other game against Bowling Green," said first-year head coach Jeff Boals. "We had a great practice yesterday. We played hard, but we didn't play smart at times. Games like this, we tell our guys all these games are going to be close, and the value of every possession. We turned it over at the end, and that's on me, but that didn't lose the game for us. You could look through the first play of the game, to the next, to the third play and find one play that's a difference maker. We executed. We got a one-point lead with 13 seconds to go on the road. All you need is one stop. I think the disappointing thing is, we let another guy get a career high. I think that's five of our last maybe eight games somebody's gotten a career high on us. The last two games, people have just driven us and scored. Give credit to (Buffalo forward Jeenathan Williams). A 50-some percent free throw shooter coming in makes all five. We missed some front ends. I thought we missed some layups that were right point-blank there. You've got to make those and extend the lead and not put yourself in that situation at the end."
Vander Plas finished the game with a career-high 28 points, going 11-of-20 from the field, 4-of-6 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. Preston finished with a career-tying 27 points, going 11-of-21 from the field and 2-of-3 from three-point range. He also grabbed a team-leading 10 rebounds and dished out six assists. Graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) finished with six points.
Overall, Ohio shot 43.9 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 64.3 percent from the free throw line, while Buffalo shot 48.4 percent from the field, 23.8 percent from three-point range and 78.6 percent from the free throw line. Ohio and UB both grabbed 37 rebounds, while Buffalo dished out 15 assists to Ohio's 12.
For Buffalo, Jeenathan Williams scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Antwain Johnson scored 18.
The Bobcats got on the board first with a layup just seconds into the game. After Buffalo tied the game up, Vander Plas drained back-to-back threes to put Ohio up 8-2. After the Vander Plas threes, the Bulls and Ogbonda traded baskets to give the Bobcats a 12-6 lead going into the first media timeout.
After the Bulls cut the Bobcats lead to four, Ogbonda hit two free throws, and layups from Preston, McDay and Vander Plas gave the Bobcats a 10-point lead before a Bulls layup cut Ohio's lead to 22-14 going into the media timeout. Out of the timeout, another Vander Plas three gave the Bobcats an eight-point lead. After an Ogbonda layup, the Bulls cut the Bobcats lead to three with a 5-0 run. A Vander Plas layup gave Ohio a five-point lead again. However, the Bulls cut the lead to three once again with 1:55 left in the half. A layup from Preston put Ohio back up five with just over a minute to go. The Bulls hit a jumper at the buzzer, but after replay review, the basket was ruled no good, sending Ohio into halftime carrying a 31-26 lead.
At the half, the Bobcats and the Bulls both shot 40 percent from the field, while Ohio hit 33 percent from three and 80 percent from the free throw line. Buffalo finished the half shooting 18 percent from three-point range and did not attempt a free throw. The Bulls outrebounded Ohio, 18-17, while both teams recorded 18 points in the paint, with Ohio dishing out eight assists to the Bulls' five.
Individually, Vander Plas led Ohio at the half with 13 points, while Ogbonda added eight points. Preston added eight points, four rebounds and three assists after the first 20 minutes of action.
Preston opened the second half as he did the first with a layup to put Ohio up seven. However, the Bulls went on a 7-2 run to cut the Ohio lead to two. After a Vander Plas layup, two free throws and a three from Buffalo put the Bulls up one with 16:27 remaining. Vander Plas matched the Buffalo three with one of his own, but a layup from Buffalo tied the game at 40-all going into the first media timeout of the half.
After the Bulls took a one-point lead out of the media timeout, a three from Preston and a layup and free throw from Vander Plas gave Ohio a four-point lead. However, the Bulls went on a 7-0 run to take a 51-48 lead into the under-12 media timeout.
However, with layups from Vander Plas and a steal and a dunk from McDay, the Bobcats retook the lead, going up 57-53 with 9:33 left. After the Bulls cut it to two, a Preston layup put Ohio back up three. However, Buffalo made another layup to cut the Ohio lead to 59-57 going into the under-eight media timeout.
Out of the timeout, Ohio and UB traded baskets before a Preston layup put the Bobcats up 64-59 with 6:46 left in the game. However, Buffalo went on an 8-0 run to take a 67-64 lead, forcing Ohio to take a timeout with 4:19 left in the game.
Out of the timeout, a three from Preston tied the game at 67. Buffalo hit a three of their own, however, to retake the lead. A layup from Preston and two free throws from Ogbonda put Ohio back up one, but another basket by Buffalo put the Bulls up one with 1:34 left in the game.
Ohio and Buffalo traded baskets, with a layup from Vander Plas giving Ohio a 74-73 led with 34 seconds left. However, the Bulls were able to drive to the rim and retake the lead with 15 seconds left. Ohio was unable to get a shot off on its next possession, and Buffalo hit two free throws with less than a second to go to give the Bulls the three-point victory.
Up next, Ohio heads to Ypsilanti, Mich. on Saturday (Jan. 18) to face off with Eastern Michigan for the second time in 11 days. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. ET inside the EMU Convocation Center.