ATHENS, Ohio – For the first time since 2017, the No. 8-seeded Ohio men's basketball team (17-15) punched its ticket to Cleveland for the Mid-American Conference Quarterfinals after defeating No. 9-seeded Central Michigan (14-18), 85-65, in the MAC First Round Monday night (March 9) inside the Convocation Center. Ohio will now face top-seeded Akron on Thursday (March 12) at noon inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
"Awesome game by our guys," head coach Jeff Boals said. "I'm really proud of their effort and preparation. I want to thank the dance team, the cheer team and the band for being here over spring break. It added to the atmosphere. I think all year long the town of Athens has stepped up and supported this team. A lot of places I go, they love who they (the student-athletes) are off the court. They love how hard they play and love how they play together. I think you could sense that all year. And I'm really happy those guys turned out for a first-round MAC game."
Leading Ohio was redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) who scored 25 points, going 8-of-14 from the field, while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Sophomore Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished the game with 21 points, going 8-of-12 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) finished his final game in the Convo with 11 points and hitting three made three-pointers. Freshman guard Lunden McDay (Akron, Ohio) finished with eight points and six rebounds.
Overall, Ohio shot 57.4 percent from the field, including 47.6 percent from three-point range, and was 13-of-19 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Central Michigan shot 31.8 percent from the field, including 12 percent from three-point range, and was 20-of-23 from the free throw line. Ohio out-rebounded CMU, 42-28, while Ohio dished out 24 assists to CMU's nine.
For CMU, Kevin McKay led the team with 18 points, followed by Dallas Morgan who had 14.
CLEVELAND BOUND!— Ohio Men's Basketball (@OhioMBasketball) March 10, 2020
Ohio 85, CMU 65 pic.twitter.com/HJC8utpZKO
The Bobcats struck first, opening the game on a 7-0 run that saw a three from Preston and layups from McDay and Preston. After CMU hit a jumper, the Bobcats responded with two free throws and another McDay layup, giving the Bobcats an 11-2 lead going into the first media timeout. Out of the timeout, Ohio continued to score with back-to-back layups from Vander Plas giving Ohio a 13-point lead. After a CMU layup, a jumper from Vander Plas and a layup from freshman center Nolan Foster (Mattawan, Mich.) gave the Bobcats a 19-4 lead with 13:33 left. After another layup from Vander Plas and a layup from CMU, Preston hit back-to-back threes that were matched by CMU, however, the Bobcats took a 27-14 lead with 9:49 left in the half.
After Vander Plas hit two more free throws and a layup, CMU cut the Ohio lead to 12. However, back-to-back threes from Vander Plas and Dartis gave the Bobcats a 37-29 lead, forcing a Central Michigan timeout. Out of the timeout, a dunk from graduate transfer forward Sylvester Ogbonda (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) and a three from freshman forward Ben Roderick (Powell, Ohio) put Ohio up 21. After CMU hit two free throws, back-to-back layups from Preston extended the Bobcats' lead, giving Ohio a 45-23 advantage going into the half.
At the half, Ohio shot 59 percent from the field, including 55 percent from three-point range by hitting eight threes, and converting all five free throws. Meanwhile, CMU shot 26 percent from the field, including 19 percent from three-point range, and was 2-of-2 from the free throw line. Ohio out-rebounded CMU 21-14, while the Bobcats dished out 13 assists to CMU's five.
At the half, Vander Plas led the Bobcats with 17 points and six rebounds, while Preston added 14 points, five assists and five rebounds. McDay added four points, while Dartis and Roderick both hit threes.
CMU recorded the first points of the half, however, it was matched by a layup from Ogbonda. After two CMU free throws, the Bobcats went on a 13-5 run, that included two Dartis threes and one Preston three that gave the Bobcats a 60-31 lead with 15:23 left in the game. Out of the timeout, CMU cut the Ohio lead to 23 before Roderick drained a three to put Ohio back up 26. However, CMU matched it with a layup, cutting Ohio's lead to 63-39 going into the under-12 media timeout.
Out of the timeout, CMU cut the Bobcats' lead to 17 before a Preston layup put Ohio back up 19. However, CMU chipped away, cutting the lead to 69-55 with 7:50 left in the game. Out of the timeout, Ohio went back up 17 before CMU cut the Bobcats' lead to 11 with 5:17 left in the game, However, a layup from McDay gave Ohio the 13-point lead going into the final media timeout.
Out of the final media timeout, Central Michigan cut the Ohio lead to 10. However, Ohio then went on an 8-0 run thanks to Vander Plas free throws a timely McDay layup and a Preston dunk. Redshirt junior Connor Murrell (Sioux City, Iowa) got the final points for the Bobcats, a layup with 26 seconds to go, giving Ohio the 85-65 victory.