YPSILANTI, Mich. – The Ohio men's basketball team (10-8, 2-3 MAC) overcame a poor first half shooting performance to mount a second-half comeback to defeat Mid-American Conference West foe Eastern Michigan (10-8, 0-5 MAC), 60-58, Saturday afternoon (Jan. 18) inside the EMU Convocation Center.
"Give our guys a lot of credit," first-year head coach Jeff Boals said. "I think as poorly as we played and shot in the first half, we felt fortunate to be down seven. I went in at halftime and said that was the worst half that we have played all year and we're only down seven. The biggest thing is we couldn't let the offense dictate our defense. After missing shots, sometimes our body language wasn't great, but I thought in the second half, our defensive intensity was really good. It really got us back in the game and then the lead and helped us hold on for the win.
Individually, redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) finished the game with 22 points, going 8-of-14 from the field, 2-of-6 from three-point range and 4-of-6 from the free throw line. Vander Plas also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out three assists. Sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while going 6-of-10 from the field. Graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) finished with a career-high 14 rebounds, while redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) finished with 11 points.
Overall, Ohio shot 37.7 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from three-point range and 51.9 percent from the free throw line, while EMU shot 34.4 percent from the field, 20 percent from three-point range and 50 percent from the free throw line. Ohio out-rebounded the Eagles, 50-38, while Ohio dished out 13 assists to EMU's six.
Both teams opened the game up with free throws, with Ogbonda tying the game at 2-2 before he hit another free throw to put the Bobcats up 3-2 with 16:38 left in the half, The Eagles recorded the first field goals of the game with 16:05 left, giving EMU a 7-3 lead going into the media timeout.
After the Eagles took a 12-3 lead with 12:49 left in the half, a free throw by freshman center Nolan Foster (Mattawan, Mich.) and a layup from Vader Plas cut the EMU lead to 12-6. After a three and a layup from the Eagles, Vander Plas drained a three before a Preston tip-in brought the score to 19-12 going into the under-eight media timeout. Out of the timeout, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run to take a 25-12 lead going into the final media timeout of the half.
Out of the timeout, Vander Plas hit two free throws before Dartis drained his first three of the game with 2:01 left in the half to cut the EMU lead to 26-17. A three from freshman forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) and a free throw from Preston brought the Bobcats within seven, with the game entering the half with the Bobcats trails EMU, 28-21.
At the half, Ohio shot 17.9 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from three-point range and 50 percent from the free throw line, while EMU shot 31.3 percent from the field, 25 percent from three-point range and 41.7 percent from the free throw line. Both teams registered 27 rebounds, while EMU dished out four assists to the Bobcats' two.
The Eagles took a nine-point lead to open the half, before Preston recorded the Bobcats first field goal of the half. After another EMU field goal and dunk to take an 11-point lead, back-to-back layups from Vander Plas cut the EMU lead to 35-27 going into the first media timeout.
Out of the timeout, a Vander Plas layup and a three from Dartis sparked an Ohio 10-2 run that was capped off by a Preston steal and Vander Plas layup that tied the game at 37-37 going into the next media timeout.
With 10:57 left in the half, Preston hit a jumper to give the Bobcats a 39-37 lead before an EMU three gave the Eagles back the lead. However, a Vander Plas layup and a Dartis three sparked a 7-0 run that put the Bobcats up 46-40. After the Eagles were assessed a technical, Ohio took a 48-40 lead until an EMU three cut the lead to 48-43. Back-to-back Preston jumpers put the Bobcats up 52-45 with 6:03 left in the game. Out of the timeout, back-to-back layups from the Eagles cut the Ohio lead to 52-49 going into the final media timeout.
After free throws from Preston and freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) put Ohio up five, EMU cut the Ohio lead to three before back-to-back layups from McDay gave Ohio a 59-53 lead with 1:36 left, However, EMU cut the Ohio lead to one with under a minute to go. After a defensive stop, Vander Plas hit a free throw to take a two-point lead with four seconds left. Then as time expired, EMU missed a three at the buzzer to seal the Bobcats 60-58 victory.
Up next, the Bobcats return to Athens on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to take on Toledo. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.