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Sears' career game lifts Ohio to first MAC win

With Preston out, freshman carries big load against Ball State

MUNCIE, Ind. – Freshman Mark Sears did his best Jason Preston impression to help Ohio snap its three-game losing streak with a 78-68 victory Saturday at Worthen Arena.

With Preston still sidelined with a lower body injury, Sears put up 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes as the Bobcats picked up their first Mid-American Conference win.

Ben Roderick went 6 of 9 from 3-point range and scored 20 points, while Ben Vander Plas and Dwight Wilson III each scored 14 points.

Ishmael El-Amin 18 points, and Miryne Thomas added 18 points for the Cardinals, who lost in MAC play for the first time this season.

"Just really proud of our guys," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "Same situation as the other night. We got off to a great start, had a great 20 minutes and were plus five at the half. The letdown that we had towards the end of the game against BG was not there. They made a couple runs at us. We always say bend but don't break."

Ohio (5-4, 1-2 MAC) jumped out to a 26-11 lead in the first 10 minutes, saw Ball State (4-4, 2-1 MAC) rally for a brief lead in the second half and then finished strong over the final seven minutes.

Sears and Wilson helped the Bobcats get off to a quick start, with Wilson’s dunk on a pass from Sears making it 16-6 after only five minutes. Then, with the Bobcats lead 21-11 following a Roderick layup, Sears scored a three-point play and then hit a jumper to extend the advantage to 15 points at the midway point of the first half.

Ball State got back into with the final six points of the first half on a K.J. Watson three-point play and then an El-Amin 3-pointer to make it 42-37.

Brachen Hazen’s 3-pointer with 14:50 remaining tied the game at 46, and El-Amin gave Ball State its first lead, 48-47, about a minute later. Vander Plas knocked down a 3-pointer on a Sears assist with 12:53 left to put the Bobcats back in front, 52-50.

Thomas came up with a steal and then a dunk to tie the game at 60 with 7:31, but Sears answered with a layup that finally put Ohio up for good. Roderick drained a 3-pointer – again assisted by Sears – that made it 66-62 with 6:39 to go, and a Vander Plas fadeaway jumper made it 74-64 with 2:47 remaining.

With the Bobcats up 74-68, Miles Brown scored his only bucket on a drive to the basket with just over a minute to go. Sears added one more basket with 25 seconds left.

Lunden McDay finished with 10 points for the Bobcats. Hazen had 10 points for the Cardinals.

Ohio shot 55.4% for the game, while Ball State finished at 46.4% from the field. Turnovers were even at 11, and free throws were not a big factor.

The Bobcats host Northern Illinois at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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