ATHENS, Ohio – The Ohio men's basketball team (15-14, 7-9 MAC) defeated Kent State (18-11, 8-8 MAC), 76-69, in its final home game of the regular season Friday (Feb. 28) night in the Convocation Center. Prior to the game, Jordan Dartis and Sylvester Ogbonda were honored for their time as a Bobcat.
"Number one, awesome crowd," head coach Jeff Boals said. "That might have been the biggest crowd of the year, and what a night to have it. National TV game and senior night. I couldn't be prouder of our guys. We got off to a slow start, which wasn't ideal. I told them I wanted the same Buffalo start, but that didn't work out. We had to take an early timeout. I thought they got a little too comfortable running their offense, and once we settled in and got the lead, we pretty much maintained it the rest of the way. I'm just really proud of our guys' effort. If you look at the last seven games, we're 5-2. It's starting on the defensive end, and it's a great win for our team."
Leading the Bobcats was redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) with 20 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line while grabbing six rebounds and two assists. Sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 assists while pulling down five rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) added 17 points, shooting 3-of-7 from the three-point range, with two rebounds and one assist in his final regular season home game with the Bobcats.
Freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) recorded 16 points, shooting 5-of-10 from the field, pulling in four rebounds and dishing out two assists. Redshirt junior guard Connor Murrell (Sioux City, Iowa) added four points and four rebounds, while graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) pulled in two rebounds.
Overall, Ohio shot 46 percent from the field, 25 percent from the three-point range and 78.1 percent from the free throw line, while Kent State shot 41.4 percentage from the field, 32 percent from the three-point range and 81.3 percent from the free throw line. Kent State out-rebounded, Ohio 37-29, while the Bobcats dished out 15 assists to the Flashes' 13.
For Kent State, Antonio Williams recorded 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Philip Whittington had 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Preston scored the first points of the game off of an assist from Dartis. However, after Kent State went on a 10-0 run, Ohio was forced to call a 30-second timeout at 16:57. Out of the timeout, Dartis hit a three and a free throw to cut the Kent State lead to 10-6 going into the under=16 media timeout. Out of the timeout, a layup by Kent State was countered by a three from Dartis, cutting the Kent State lead to 12-9. After Ohio and the Flashes traded baskets, a jumper from Preston cut the Kent State lead to three with 11:38 left in the first half.
Out of the timeout, Kent State took a five-point lead before layups from Vander Plas and Murrell tied the game 18-18. A three by Vander Plas put the Bobcats up 21-18 with 9:08 left in the first half. After Kent State tied the game with a three of their own, free throws from Vander Plas put the Bobcats up two going into the media timeout. Out of the timeout, a Kent State technical foul resulted in two free throws from Dartis, giving the Bobcats a four-point lead. After Kent State tied the game 27-27 with 5:52 left in the half, back-to-back layups from Vander Plas put the Bobcats up 31-27 and forced a Kent State timeout.
A three from Dartis put the Bobcats up seven before a layup and free throw from Kent State cut the Ohio lead to four. After a thunderous steal and dunk from Preston put the Bobcats back up six, two free throws from Kent State with four seconds to go cut the Ohio lead to 36-32 going into halftime.
At the half, Ohio shot 48 percent from the field, 33 percent from three-point range, and were eight-of-eight from the free throw line, while Kent State shot 42 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range and were 5-6 from the free throw line. Both teams grabbed 14 rebounds, while Ohio dished out nine assists to the Flashes' seven.
At the half, Dartis led with 14 points, while Vander Plas scored 12 and Preston added eight points and five assists.
Out of the halftime break, a layup by Kent State cut the lead down to two, but Ohio countered with a layup of their own from Preston. The Flashes added three more from a free throw and a layup, but a jumper by McDay and a layup by Vander Plas increased the Bobcats' lead to 42-37. McDay recorded two more with a layup, but Kent State cut the lead to 44-40 after a three-point shot going into the media timeout.
Kent State went on a four-point run until a dunk by Vander Plas put Ohio up four. The Flashes cut the lead again after making a second-chance layup, but a foul by Kent State brought Ohio to the free throw line. The Bobcats were up 48-43 after McDay made two free throws, but a three from Kent State decreased the lead to two with 11:47 left in the game. A jumper by McDay put the Bobcats up 50-46 before the media timeout.
Out of the timeout, a layup and a dunk scored by Kent State tied up the game 50-50. Despite Preston's layup, the Flashes countered with a layup of their own, keeping the game tied. Kent State took a two-point lead after a dunk, however, Preston made both shots from the free throw line, tying the game. McDay made two free throws of his own, giving Ohio a 56-54 lead.
After Kent State player Danny Pippen was ejected due to a flagrant foul, Ogbonda shot two free throws, making one. The Golden Flashes cut the lead by a point after a successful jumper and took a 58-57 lead after a layup gave them two more points with 3:41 left. Ohio went on a four-point run after a jumper from Murrell and a layup from Preston, increasing the Bobcats' lead over the Flashes to 61-58 going into the final media timeout of the game.
Kent State decreased the point separation after adding two points from free throws, but McDay countered with a three. Both teams recorded two points as a result of successful free throws, however, Ohio maintained their lead, bringing the score to 66-62. McDay added a point from the free throw line but a three from the Flashes cut the lead back down to two and forced a Kent State timeout.
Out of the timeout, two more were added by the Bobcats through free throws, followed by two more after Ohio called a 30-second timeout. The Flashes cut the lead to 71-67 after a layup with 38 seconds left, but a layup by McDay and a free throw from Dartis put Ohio up seven. The Bobcats and Kent State both made two more free throws, but Ohio ultimately defeated the Flashes, 76-69.
Up next, the Bobcats head to Akron to take on the Zips on Tuesday, March 3. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. inside the James A. Rhodes Arena and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.