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Sears leads impressive win over Belmont in opener

Carter, Vander Plas also have big games

ATHENS Mark Sears, Jason Carter and Ben Vander Plas were a lethal combination as Ohio opened its season with a 92-80 victory against Bemont on Tuesday night at The Convo.

With Jason Preston gone to the NBA, Sears scored 27 points and added six rebounds and four assists, and in his return to the Bobcats after two seasons with Xavier, Carter had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Vander Plas contributed 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

"We had an awesome crowd tonight," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "It was a great carryover from the Capital (exhibition) game. The vibe, the energy level, the students and the community was great. It is great to have everybody back and we got great team win."

Ben Sheppard had 25 points, and Ohio native Nick Muszynski added 18 points for the Bruins, who return every starter from their 26-4 team a season ago.

After Belmont tied the game at 58 with 12:38 remaining, Ohio used a 28-10 run to cruise down the stretch, beginning with a basket by Carter. Lunden McDay and Carter knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to make it eight straight for the Bobcats.

Michael Shanks scored to stop the run, but Carter and Tommy Schmock followed with baskets before a 3-pointer by freshman AJ Clayton made it 73-60.

Later, a Vander Plas 3-pointer made it 79-64, and with 1:51 remaining, Vander Plas had a steal and a dunk to make it 86-68.

"Defense was a big emphasis for us coming into this game," Carter said. "They are a high-powered offense who last year was averaging over 80 points a game. We worked on a lot of what they do on offense to guard effectively, and I think we executed it really well tonight."

Ohio got off to a hot start and took an early 16-5 lead on a Miles Brown 3-pointer. Belmont battled back and briefly took a 27-25 lead on a Grayson Murphy 3-pointer, but Carter connected from beyond the arc on the next possession to put the Bobcats back in front. Vander Plas hit from deep at the end of the first half to put Ohio in front 44-39.

The Bruins had one-point leads on a few occasions in the second half but did not lead again after a Carter 3-pointer put the Bobcats in front 58-56 with 13:17 to go.

Sears went 10 of 11 from the floor, including 4 of 4 from long range.

"The best thing about him (Sears) is he is an attacker and penetrator," Boals said. "He is a gamer and is determined to score. Nothing phases the kid; he is such a laid-back kid who has put the time and work in, and we will keep building on his skills."

Carter was 4 of 8 from long range, and Brown went 2 of 3 on 3-pointers as part of his 10 points. Their hot shooting helped offset a 2-of-9 performance from long range and 2-of-13 overall shooting effort from Ben Roderick.

Ohio was 16 of 37 (43.2%) from beyond the arc and shot 48.5% overall with just eight turnovers.

The Bobcats take on Cleveland State at 7 p.m. Saturday on the road.

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