AKRON, Ohio – Despite a halftime lead, the Ohio men's basketball team (15-15, 7-10 MAC) was unable to hold off an experienced Akron (23-7, 13-4 MAC) team, falling to the Zips, 74-67 Tuesday night inside James A. Rhodes Arena.
"It was kind of like game one, but reversed," first-year head coach Jeff Boals said. "They dominated the first half at our place, and we dominated in the second half. Same thing here. We knew they were going to up their pressure. I don't think it's anything they did differently, except deny our entries. When that happens, you have to be a little bit stronger and a little tougher to get open with your passes and meeting your passes. And we were banged up the whole game with Jordan (Dartis) and Mason (McMurray) out and with Ben (Vander Plas) tweaking his ankle."
Overall, Ohio shot 49 percent from the floor, 35 percent from three-point range and 69 percent from the free throw line, while Akron shot 47 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line. Ohio outrebounded the Zips 34-25, while the Bobcats dished out 13 assists to Akron's 12.
Individually, sophomore guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) led the way with 19 points, eight assists and five rebounds, while graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) scored a career-high 15 points, going 4-of-5 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line while also grabbing seven rebounds. Redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) finished with nine points.
The Bobcats opened up the game with a 5-0 run thanks to a jumper from Preston and a three from Ogbonda. After Akron got their first points of the game, another Ogbonda layup put Ohio back up five. After Akron tied the game at 7-7, two more Ogbonda points put the Bobcats back up two. However, Akron took a two-point lead on a three, but McDay matched that with one of his own, giving the Bobcats a 12-10 lead going into the first media timeout. Out of the timeout, Akron took a three-point lead. However, a layup and dunk from Vander Plas put the Bobcats back up, 16-15, going into the under-12 timeout.
Out of the timeout, free throws from Ogbonda put the Bobcats up three. After an Akron layup, the Bobcats went on a 7-0 run that included a three by freshman forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) and back-to-back Preston layups, giving Ohio a 25-17 lead with 7:45 left in the half. The Bobcats kept scoring out of the timeout with a Vander Plas three and a Preston layup, giving the Bobcats a 30-18 lead and forcing an Akron timeout.
Out of the Akron timeout, the Zips got a layup, however Preston responded with a layup to keep the Bobcats ahead by 11. After an Akron three, a layup and free throw from redshirt junior Connor Murrell (Sioux City, Iowa) put Ohio back up 11. The Bobcats and Zips then traded baskets, with a three from Akron cutting the Ohio lead to seven going into the final media timeout. Out of the timeout, free throws from Preston and a layup from Roderick put Ohio back up 11 with 2:17 left in the half. After Akron cut the lead to nine, back-to-back threes from Preston and McDay out the Bobcats up 50-37 going into the half.
At the half, the Bobcats shot 63 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and were 6-of-7 from the free throw line, while Akron shot 52 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three-point range, and was 7-of-10 from the free throw line. Ohio outrebounded the Zips, 13-11, while the Bobcats forced seven Zips turnovers and scored 12 points off of them.
After Akron opened the second half with a three, McDay matched it with his own to give the Bobcats a 13-point lead. The Bobcats and Zips traded buckets over the next few minutes, giving the Bobcats a 55-45 lead going into the first media timeout. Out of that timeout, a layup from Vander Plas, a three by Roderick and a free throw from freshman guard Miles Brown (Rochester, N.Y.) put Ohio up 15 before three-straight free throws from Akron cut the Ohio lead to 61-50 going into the under-12 media timeout.
After Akron was able to cut the Ohio lead to two with 9:58 left, a thunderous dunk from Preston put Ohio back up four going into the under-eight media timeout. Out of the timeout, a Preston layup put the Bobcats back up four, however, five-straight points from Akron gave the Zips a 66-65 lead going into the final media timeout. Out of the timeout, the Zips would take a 69-65 lead before free throws from Ogbonda brought Ohio back within two. However, another Zips layup gave Akron the 71-67 lead with 29 seconds left. The Bobcats would be unable to get anything else going over the final 29 seconds, falling to the Zips, 74-67.
Ohio is back in action on Friday, March 6 when they head to Oxford, Ohio for the regular-season finale against Miami. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN3.