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Preston records 2nd career triple-double in Ohio win

Wilson, Sears have big halves as Bobcats top Cardinals

ATHENS – Jason Preston posted his second career triple-double and the third in program history as Ohio defeated Ball State 85-77 on Saturday afternoon at The Convo.

It was not a good shooting day for Preston, who was 3 of 16, but he finished with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He added three steals.

"It's one of those deals you always talk about where if you don't shoot the ball well, you can still do a lot of other things," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "(Preston's) impact for us is huge. To do what he did, rebound-wise, assist-wise, playing the whole second half. We were going to get him a break here in the second half during one of the media timeouts, but he didn't want one. Just a special player."

Mark Sears finished with 19 points and five rebounds off the bench to lead five players in double figures for Ohio (8-6, 4-4 Mid-American Conference). Dwight Wilson II did not miss a shot from the field in scoring 18 points with eight rebounds, and Lunden McDay had 17 points. Ben Vander Plas added 11 points and six rebounds despite foul trouble.

Ishmael El-Amin led the Cardinals (7-6, 3-4 MAC) with 21 points and five assists in a game originally scheduled for Friday night but postponed to Saturday because of power issues in Athens.

The Bobcats scored the game’s first 11 points and never trailed. Wilson had four points and McDay five points before Preston’s basket to make it 11-0. A Brachen Hazen basket finally got the Cardinals on the board with 16:32 left in the first half.

After Ball State got as close as three, Wilson’s three-point play at the 9:34 mark put Ohio up 29-16 for its biggest lead to that point. It was surpassed on another Wilson three-point play to make it 32-18. He had 16 of his points in the first half.

Hazen again cut Ball State’s lead to three at 41-38 on a pair of free throws with 1:50 left in the half, and again, Ohio responded. Miles Brown drained a 3-pointer and Preston added two free throws before a Jarron Coleman basket made it 46-40 at halftime.

Luke Bumbalough’s 3-pointer to start the second half made it a three-point game again. Ohio came back with seven straight points, capped by a Ben Roderick layup, to take a 53-43 lead. Later, Sears converted a four-point play and followed with a three-point play to make it 62-48. Sears scored 14 points in the second half.

Ball State’s final run in the closing minutes came up short. After trailing 77-65 with 3:42 remaining, the Cardinals got as close as 82-77 on a K.J. Walton layup with 36 seconds left. McDay added two free throws and Vander Plas one down the stretch to close it out.

"After we lost to Kent, we had a really good film session with pretty much the guys who play," Boals said. "We talked about making contact on blockouts, making second, third effort on offensive rebounds, some things that we had not been doing."

Free throws were a big difference in the game. The Bobcats were 26 of 35, while the Cardinals were 15 of 19. Ball State stayed in the game by going 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, compared to just 5 of 22 for Ohio.

Preston recorded his triple-double by putting back his own miss with 2:49 remaining, giving up his 10th rebound and 10th and 11th points. D.J. Cooper has the only other triple-double in Ohio history.

Bumbalough scored 11 points, and Kani Acree finished with 10 points off the bench for the Cardinals.

Not only was the game delayed a day, the Bobcats had their game scheduled for Tuesday at Northern Illinois canceled after they already had arrived.

"These kids are resilient," Boals said. "The amount of change that happened this week, a lot of times kids like structure. They're a happy-go-lucky group. They went with the flow. I think it was kind of the wherewithal to go out and do what you talk about. A lot of times you talk about it but actions speak louder than words."

Ohio hosts Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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