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Bobcats win for 5th time in 7 games

Ohio beats Kent State 76-69

ATHENS – Ben Vander Plas had 20 points and six rebounds, and Jason Preston finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 assists as Ohio won for the fifth time in seven games with a 76-69 victory against Kent State on Friday night at The Convo.

Jordan Dartis added 17 points on senior night and his final home game. Lunden McDay was big off the bench with 16 points.

"No. 1, awesome crowd," Ohio 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.”

Kent State (18-11, 8-8 Mid-American Conference) got 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Antonio Williams. Troy Simons had 11 points, and Philip Whittington scored 10 points with eight rebounds.

The Golden Flashes jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead on a Simons 3-pointer, but Dartis answered with one of his own, and the Bobcats (15-14, 7-9 MAC) began to turn it around. They finally tied the game at 18 on a Connor Murrell basket and then took the lead on a Vander Plas 3-pointer midway through the half.

“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,” Boals said. “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.”

With the game tied at 27, Vander Plas put Ohio ahead 29-27 with a layup. He added a jumper, and then a Dartis 3-pointer capped the run to make it 34-27. The Bobcats led 36-32 at halftime.

McDay scored a basket to get the lead back to seven early in the second half, but Kent State came back to tie the game at 50 with 7:51 remaining on a Danny Pippen dunk. Another one gave the Golden Flashes a 54-52 lead with 6:50 to go.

A pair of Preston free throws tied it at 54, and McDay hit two foul shots to put Ohio back on top. A couple minutes later, a basket by Whittington put Kent State on top 58-57 with 3:41 to go, but a Murrell jumper finally put Ohio ahead for good.

Leading by one, the Bobcats got a McDay 3-pointer to get some separation with 2:19 left, and Vander Plas followed with two free throws. Mitch Peterson connected on a 3-pointer with 1:19 to go to make it 67-65 with 1:19 left. Vander Plas made two free throws and then Dartis two with 46 seconds left to make it a six-point game. Ohio closed it out with free throws and a McDay layup.

Kent State was held to 41.4% shooting, while Ohio shot 46.0%.

“It's starting on the defensive end, and it's a great win for our team,” Boals said.

Ohio takes on Akron at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at James A. Rhodes Arena.

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