ATHENS, Ohio – Despite shooting 61 percent in the second half, the Ohio men's basketball team (10-10, 2-5 MAC) was unable to complete the second half comeback, falling to Akron (16-4, 6-1 MAC) on Saturday (Jan. 25) afternoon, 88-86, inside the Convocation Center.
"It's part of the growth," first year head coach Jeff Boals said. "We talked about coming out in the first war and getting off to a great start. That's a high-powered offense and a very good defense. We got the stops, but then they were getting the offensive rebounds and second chances. That happened three times in the first war. They had six offensive rebounds in the first half. You can't spot a team that many extra chances in a game like this. The second foul on Ben Vander Plas really hurt us. We wanted to try and keep it a six-to-eight point game going into halftime, and it ended up being 16. That swing really hurt us. At halftime, I thought our guys could have folded, but they didn't, just like they haven't all year. They're great kids and they responded the way I thought they would. I told them after the game, that the tale of two halves, that the energy level is what we need to do for 40 minutes. Every single guy who played at one point there is something they could have done with more effort to change the outcome of the game, including myself. That's where we have to continue to get better."
Leading Ohio was redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) who finished the game with 21 points, going 9-of-15 from the field, 3-of-8 from three-point range, while grabbing one rebound. Dartis now needs three more made three-pointers to pass Nick Kellogg as the all-time three-point shooter in Ohio history. Redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) finished the game with 18 points, after sitting most of the first half with foul trouble. Vander Plas went 8-of-13 from the field, 1-of-2 from three-point range and 1-of-1 from the free throw line. He also grabbed two rebounds. Sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished the game with 15 points, going 7-of-11 from the field, 1-of-1 from three-point range, He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out nine assists. Freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) wrapped up the game with 11 points and five rebounds, while graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) finished with a team-leading 10 rebounds.
Overall, Ohio shot 55.6 percent from the field. 45.5 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line, while Akron shot 56.9 percent from the field, 56.5 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. Ohio out-rebounded Akron, 28-27, while Akron dished out 18 assists to Ohio's 17. Both teams committed 11 turnovers, with Ohio scoring 18 point off of them and Akron scoring 15.
For Akron, the Zips were led by Loren Cristian Jackson who scored 35 points, going 13-of-17 from the field and 7-of-9 from three-point range. Tyler Cheese finished the game with 16 points, while Xeyrius Williams and Channel Banks both finished with 12 points.
The Bobcats opened the game with the first basket before the Zips went on an 8-2 run with 15:43 left in the half. Dartis matched with a jumper which led to an exchange of buckets to put Akron up over Ohio, 22-11, at the media timeout. Out of the timeout, Akron extended their lead with a layup and free throw. The Bobcats went on a 7-0 run lead by a redshirt-freshman forward Mason McMurray (Stow, Ohio) three to put Ohio behind Akron, 25-18, with 8:45 left in the half.
After an exchange of buckets, the Bobcats were within two following a three from McDay and Dartis layup. Ohio continued to battle, but Akron went on a 12-2 run with 2:12 to play in the half. A jumper by Dartis gave the Bobcats their last points of the half as the Zips hit three back-to-back shots from the floor to put Akron up at half, 48-32.
At the half, the Bobcats shot 48.3 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from three-point range and 33.3 percent from the free throw line, while Akron shot 52.9 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. Akron out-rebounded the Bobcats 19-14, while the Zips dished out 11 assists to the Bobcats' 11.
The Bobcats opened up the second half with two made free throws by McDay before the Zips retaliated with a layup. Ohio then went on an 10-6 run, capped by a layup from Ogbonda before the under-16 media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bobcats and Zips exchanged buckets. Preston and freshman forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) hit back-to-back threes followed by a Preston layup to make it 61-55, resulting in an Akron timeout.
Roderick opened up play with a three-point jumper followed by an Akron three. Ogbonda hit two free throws followed by a Preston layup to make it 64-62 with 10:17 left in the game. Akron then went on a 11-6 run to extend their lead, 75-68, with 7:43 left to play at the media timeout.
The Bobcats chipped away at the lead after exchanging buckets with the Zips, capped off by a driving layup from Vander Plas, making it 80-74 and forcing an Akron timeout with 4:22 left to play.
Akron came off of the timeout with a layup, but a Vander Plas three-point basket kept Ohio in the fight. The Bobcats and Zips continued to exchange baskets before a Vander Plas dunk made it 86-81 at the Ohio timeout with 1:39 left to play.
A second-chance three-point bucket by Dartis put the Bobcats within two, but Akron sunk their two free throws to keep their lead. Despite a last-second jumper from Preston, the Bobcats fell to the Zips, 88-86.
Up next, the Bobcats head to DeKalb, Ill. on Tuesday, Jan. 28 to take on Northern Illinois. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. EST inside the NIU Convocation Center.