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Win streak reaches 6 as Bobcats run away from Eagles

Preston, Wilson make impacts in return

ATHENS – Back to full strength, Ohio rolled to its sixth straight victory and clinched a spot in the Mid-American Conference tournament, beating Eastern Michigan 86-67 on Thursday afternoon at The Convo.

After missing Tuesday’s win against Akron, Jason Preston was back in the starting lineup and nearly delivered a triple-double with eight points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Dwight Wilson III was back, too, coming off the bench and putting up 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting with six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Ben Roderick had 17 points, Lunden McDay tallied 14 points, and Ben Vander Plas had 13 points – including the 1,000th of his career – seven rebounds and eight assists for the Bobcats (13-6, 9-4 MAC).

"It's a blessing," Vander Plas said. "I'm grateful to have been here the last few years and be able to hit that milestone. As cool as all that is, that's not what we're looking for as a group. The goal is to win a MAC Championship."

Ohio was sharp again, shooting 55.7%, including 12 of 27 (44.4%) from long range. It had a school-record 30 assists.

Ty Groce paced the Eagles (4-11, 1-10 MAC) with 18 points and six rebounds. Bryce McBride had 17 points off the bench.

"Really proud of our guys for sharing the basketball, being patient and getting the win," Boals said. "Our guys are playing really well and playing well together. We have great leadership. They're saying the right things in the locker room. They're saying the right things in the huddle."

Down 11-6 early, Preston assisted a Vander Plas 3-pointer to start an 8-0 run to put the Bobcats in front for good. Wilson tied the game with a layup, and Vander Plas connected from deep again, making it 14-11.

After a Noah Morgan jumper for the Eagles, Wilson scored two straight baskets to extend Ohio’s lead to 18-13. Vander Plas followed with a layup, and McDay converted a three-point play, pushing the advantage to double digits at 23-13.

Miles Brown added a 3-pointer in the 12-0 run that was part of a bigger 20-2 stretch in favor of the Bobcats. Eastern Michigan got as close as eight before a Mark Sears 3-pointer gave the Bobcats their biggest lead of the first half, 37-21. They led 39-26 at halftime.

Cold to star the second half, Ohio’s advantage temporarily slipped to single digits at 39-30, but a Vander Plas layup made it 51-34. The Eagles cut their deficit to 53-43 with 11:03 remaining and then got it back to 10 on a McBride triple with 9:27 to go that made it 61-51.

Ohio pulled away after that, going up 68-52 on a Brown 3-pointer, 75-56 on a Vander Plas layup and then later 80-56, their biggest lead, on a pair of Preston free throws with 3:50 remaining.

Perfect on Thursday, Wilson is shooting 70.5% from the field, second-best in the nation and the top mark in program history.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Ohio is in third place overall in the MAC

"It's Coach Boals and our coaches," McDay said. "They know how to get us back in shape. They built us up day-by-day. The chemistry was there in practice and it carried over to the game. We just take it day by day, game by game. Tomorrow at practice, we're going to stay locked in."

The Bobcats play their third game in five days and final at home this season when they host Buffalo at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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