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Bobcats return with bang by blowing out Zips

Ohio wins big despite missing 2 leading scorers

ATHENS – Nothing could stop Ohio in its return to the court after a three-week break because of COVID-19 issues.

The Bobcats showed no signs of rust and overcame the absences of its two leading scorers while blowing out one of the Mid-American Conference’s top teams, Akron, 90-73, on Tuesday afternoon in the 700th men's basketball game at The Convo.

Ohio (12-6, 8-4 MAC) had not played since Feb. 2 but extended its winning streak to five games by avenging an earlier 20-point loss to the Zips (14-5, 12-4 MAC).

It was a team effort for the Bobcats, who had five players in double figures and two more with at least eight points. Ben Roderick and Ben Vander Plas scored 17 points each, while freshman Mark Sears came close to a triple-double with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

"I give our guys a lot of credit for playing with a lot of confidence," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "Rebounding in the second half was really big."

The Bobcats shot 49.2% for the game, including 10 of 19 from long range, while the Zips shot just 38.8% and made only 8 of 32 attempts from beyond the arc.

And it all was without a pair of certain All-MAC performers, Jason Preston and Dwight Wilson III, on the court.

Roderick began the game with a 3-pointer, and Ohio never trailed. The lead reached double digits at 19-9 on another Roderick 3-pointer with 11:03 left in the first half.

After the Zips cut their deficit to 31-30 on a Mikal Dawson 3-pointer, the Bobcats answered with a Roderick 3-pointer, and they were able to push their lead back out to 41-32 before the break.

Vander Plas scored the first three baskets of the second half, and later, a Sears layup gave Ohio a 59-37 led with 13:31 to go. Then when Loren Cristian Jackson scored to cap a seven-point run for Akron, the Bobcats answered back with 13-2 run, going up 72-50 on a Lunden McDay three-point play with 8:39 remaining.

One more time, Akron made a run, with two Jackson free throws the last of nine straight points to make it 72-59, but Sears came back with a key layup to stop the run. He added a steal and assist of a Roderick layup, and then Miles Brown and Vander Plas followed with second-chance baskets – with Vander Plas added an and-one free throw – to give the Bobcats an 81-59 lead with 3:19 to go.

Brown had 12 points, including a 10-of-12 effort at the foul line, in 17 minutes off the bench. McDay finished with 10 points, and freshman Jalen Brown scored nine points on perfect 3-point shooting in just nine minutes.

Replacing Wilson in the lineup and making his first career start, Colin Granger had four points but fouled out in just 12 minutes on the court. Rifen Miguel, who had major struggles in previous minutes this season, came through with eight points but also fouled out in 17 minutes of action.

"The bench stepped up and gave good energy," Vander Plas said. "If we have the same energy as this afternoon, a lot could change."

Jackson paced the Zips with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but none of his teammates reached double digits. Bryan Trimble Jr. had nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from long range. The team’s other three starters combined for 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

Ohio coach Jeff Boals did not give details but said the team probably will be short-handed again in its next game and could be Saturday as well.

The Bobcats host Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Thursday at The Convo.

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