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Ohio tourney magic continues

Vander Plas, Preston lead comeback win over Virginia

Ohio Bobcats Photo
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Ohio is dancing into the second round again.

Ben Vander Plas scored 17 points and spear-headed a game-changing second-half run, while Jason Preston off his abilities to the nation by nearly producing a triple-double as the Bobcats knocked off defending national champion Virginia 62-58 in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at Assembly Arena.

Beginning with a go-ahead 3-pointer, Vander Plas scored 10 straight Ohio points late in the second half. Preston finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in the school’s third straight opening round victory in the tournament. The Bobcats also pulled first-round upsets in 2010 and 2012.

"I'm just really, really proud of our guys," Igui coach Jeff Boals said. "There were multiple times in the second half they could have broke. We always talk about bend but don't break. We got down 38-31, Ben Vander Plas made some huge plays in the second half. Jason Preston made some great plays, made big free throws down the stretch."

No. 13 seed Ohio (17-7) advance to face No. 5 Creighton (21-8) in the next round Monday at a time to be determined. The Bluejays held off No. 12 seed UC Santa Barbara 63-62 earlier Saturday.

“Obviously, it’s a huge win; being the 13 seed coming out and getting a win in the NCAA Tournament is big." Vander Plas said. “I’m just really thankful we’re able to get a win.”

Sam Hauser had 15 points to lead the Virginia, but he was just 4 of 16 from the field, including 1 of 8 from long range, as the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champion Cavaliers (18-7) lost at their own game, shooting just 35.0%. Trey Murphy III had 12 points.

Virginia bowed out of the ACC Tournament after its first game in the ACC Tournament nine days ago because of a positive COVID-19 test. The Cavaliers had to quarantine and could not practice all week and did not arrive for the tournament until Friday.

“Our guys were again hopeful we’d get this opportunity,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “The NCAA allowed us to come in in a unique way. I’m thankful for it, but it just stings right now to not advance in this tournament.”

Ohio trailed by seven points once in each half and both times responded with a run. In the second half, it was 16-2 run to surge into the lead.

Kihei Clark score a fast break layup following a blocked shot to give Virginia a 38-31 lead with 14:36 remaining. Preston started Ohio’s biggest stretch of the game with a drive to the basket for a layup, Ben Roderick connected on two free throws, and then Preston scored again to get the Bobcats back to within one.

After a pair of free throws by Hauser, Mark Sears attacked the basket for a layup to make it a one-point game again, and then Vander Plas drained back-to-back 3-pointers, both assisted by Preston, and then added another basket to make it 47-40 with 4:43 remaining.

"Man, he's good,” said Hauser, who played with against Vander Plas since they were children in Wisconsin. “He's so sound, so fundamentally sound. He's a good player. He is kind of like a glue guy to that team. Without him, I don't know what they'd be like."

Reece Beekman scored the Cavaliers’ first field goal in 10 minutes after 11 straight misses, but Vander Plas answered with another basket.

"When we can string some stops together, we're a pretty good offensive team," Vander Plas aid. "The big focus for us is getting those stops that lead to buckets on the offensive end."

Virginia scored the next five points to make it interesting down the stretch. Beekman scored again, and then after Dwight Wilson III missed a dunk for Ohio, Murphy knocked down an open look from 3-point range to make it 49-47 with 2:59 remaining.

Wilson made up for his mistake with a key basket on an assist from Preston following a timeout, and after Jay Huff scored on a putback, Preston had another pretty feed to Ben Roderick for a layup that made it 53-49 with two minutes to go.

After a key defensive stop, Ohio worked the clock before Vander Plas hit Roderick for a 3-pointer that made it a seven-point game again.

With 43 seconds to go, Preston answered two Houser free throws with two of his own. Huff scored a second-chance basket again, and Beekman stole Ohio’s inbound pass, leading to another basket by Huff with 13 seconds left, making it a one-possession game at 58-55.

In a one-and-one situation, Sears connected twice at the foul line before Murphy’s 3-pointer got the Cavaliers to within two. Still in the one-and-one, Ohio got two more free throws, these ones from Lunden McDay with four seconds left, to put it away. The Bobcats were 13 of 14 at the foul line, including 10 of 10 in the second half.

“I know our guys are feeling it right now,” Bennett said. “We had some chances. I don’t know if we got tired down the stretch or felt a little bit of the pressure, but we had some good looks and just had a poor shooting day, a very poor shooting day from 3-point range with some quality shots, but they did a good job defensively.”

Although it was a close game throughout, Ohio’s only lead of the first half was 3-0 on a Roderick 3-pointer that opened scoring. Murphy answered from long range for Virginia, and the Bobcats did not lead again until Vander Plas’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 7:44 remaining.

Huff, Virginia’s 7-foot-1 senior forward, connected from long range, and Clark added another from beyond the arc to make it 9-3, but after starting the game 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, the Cavaliers made just 5 of 25 the rest of the night.

Preston assisted an acrobatic McDay layup to snap Virginia’s 9-0 run, and Ohio eventually tied the game at 12 on a Vander Plas jumper in the paint. The teams traded baskets until the game was tied at 16 before seven straight points by the Cavaliers gave them their biggest lead to that point. Murphy hit from deep to make it 24-17 with 3:57 left in the first half.

After a timeout, Preston assisted a Roderick layup and then McDay hit a jumper to make it a three-point game again. Down by four as time wound down to end the first half, Vander Plas connected on a 3-pointer to make it a 28-27 game at the break.

Virginia used a 6-0 run early in the second half to match its biggest lead of the game of seven points at 38-31.

That is when Ohio turned it up against one of the nation’s best defensive teams, led by Vander Plas, who contributed five rebounds and four assists in addition to being the game’s leading scorer.

Vander Plas’ father, Dean, played with Virginia coach Tony Bennett in college at Wisconsin-Green Bay, coached by Bennett’s father, Dick, and named him Bennett after the family. Vander Plas matched the scoring total of his dad in a 60-58 loss by Green Bay to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament 30 years ago.

“Wow, that’s unbelievable. That’s crazy to hear," Ben Vander Plas said. "That’s really cool to score the same amount as my pops in the first round; that’s really crazy."

Roderick scored 15 points for the Bobcats to help provide enough offense in a game where Wilson struggled somewhat against the much bigger Cavaliers. Second in the nation in field goal percentage, Wilson was 2 of 6 and scored seven points with six rebounds.

Wilson made one big play by drawing the second foul on Huff with 5:13 left in the first half, second him to the bench until the start of the second half. Huff picked is third foul after only three minutes and did not return to the lineup until 9:22 remained. Huff and Clark both finished with nine points.

Ohio became just the second school, along with Richmond, to win three games in the round of 64 as a 13 seed or lower, also having beaten Michigan in 2012 as a No. 13 seed and Georgetown in 2010 as a No. 14 seed. The Bobcats reached the Sweet 16 in 2012 and now is 4-2 in its last six NCAA Tournament games.

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