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Dartis, McDay help Ohio hold off Eastern Michigan for 1st MAC win

Preston, Vander Plas have strong all-around games

ATHENS – Jordan Dartis scored 26 points, and Lunden McDay made some key plays down the stretch to help Ohio hold on for a 74-68 victory against Eastern Michigan on Tuesday night at The Convo.

Dartis went 8 of 15 from 3-point range, while McDay scored 13 points, including a 3-pointer that helped stop an Eastern Michigan run after it cut a 12-point deficit to three in the final minute. Jason Preston added 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Bobcats (9-6, 1-1 Mid-American Conference).

"If (Dartis) plays against Campbell, we probably win the game," Ohio coach Jeff Boals. "He did it against Middle Tennessee State and Detroit Mercy. When teams play zone, he's going to find the open area. More importantly, the other guys are going to find him. They were in the huddle talking about feeding him the ball. We continued to do that and we trust him. He's in elite shooter and when you go 8-of-15, the game is a lot smoother."

Yeikson Montero led the Eagles (10-5, 0-2 MAC) with 18 points. His steal and basket with 1:16 remaining cut the Ohio lead to 68-65 after the Bobcats had led 62-50 with 6:30 to go.

But the Bobcats worked the shot clock and then got the big-time 3-pointer from McDay to double up their lead with 44 seconds remaining.

"I was just open," McDay said. "I knew Ben (Vander Plas) saw me and I just shot it and I knew it was going to be good.

Shamar Dillard answered from beyond the arc for the Eagles, but they were forced to foul, and Preston made one to make it a 72-68 game with 21 seconds left.

Then after a Montero miss from long range, Preston made two at the line with seven seconds left, putting the game away.

Eastern Michigan went up 25-18 on a Montero 3-pointer with 8:51 remaining in the first half, but Ohio came back with a big run to build a halftime lead. Vander Plas connected from deep, and then McDay hit a free throw, followed by a 3-pointer to tie the game at 25.

A Preston free throw put Ohio on top, and Dartis followed with a 3-pointer to make it 29-25, capping a a string of 11 straight Bobcats points.

But the Bobcats weren’t done there. After two Ty Groce free throws, Nolan Foster, McDay and then Foster had baskets to give Ohio a 35-27 lead as part of an overall 17-2 run. Groce made two free throws, but another basket by Foster, who had 10 points in the game, put the Bobcats up 37-29 at halftime.

Eastern Michigan began the second half with an 8-0 run to tie the score at 37, but Preston put Ohio ahead for good with a layup. Dartis followed with back-to-back 3-pointers as the Bobcats matched the Eagles’ run.

"Hitting shots is the key to beating the zone," Dartis said. "Whenever I got free, I was looking to knock shots down. However, the other guys did a good job of playing good basketball today. It wasn't just me, Preston was making plays and Vander Plas was making plays. Great team effort today."

Later, a Montero 3-pointer made it a three-point game, but Dartis struck again from long range. His 3-pointer with 12:24 remaining made it 53-44, and then he hit a jumper to push the lead to double digits. Preston’s 3-pointer with 10:56 to go gave Ohio its biggest lead 58-44. Preston’s basket with 6:36 to go put Ohio ahead 62-50 before the Eagles’ made one final run.

Both teams were sloppy with the ball, combining for 43 turnovers, including 22 by the Eagles. But when the Bobcats were taking care of the ball, they were sharp on offense after two straight cold-shooting games, finishing 46.4% from the field, including 13 of 27 on 3-pointers. The Eagles shot 43.9%, including 8 of 21 3-pointers.

Groce had 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, and Boubacar Toure had a near double-double of eight points and 10 rebounds. Dillard scored nine points and Noah Morgan eight.

Vander Plas did not shoot well – 3 of 9 from the field and 3 of 7 at the line – but impacted the game with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. In only his second game back from an injury, Connor Murrell was just 1 of 5 for two points but had eight rebounds and five assists in 16 minutes.

Ohio hosts Bowling Green at 1 p.m. Saturday at The Convo.

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