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Vander Plas, Sears help Ohio overcome sloppy 1st half

Bobcats win when trailing at halftime for just 2nd time

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. Ben Vander Plas and Mark Sears combined for 46 points to help Ohio bounce back from a loss two nights before with an 81-72 victory against Central Michigan on Thursday night at McGuirk Arena.

Vander Plas scored 24 points with six assists, while Sears had 22 points, five rebounds and four assists as the Bobcats (20-4, 11-2 Mid-American Conference) overcame a sloppy first half. Tommy Schmock had his second straight strong showing, finishing with 16 points.

Freshman Kevin Miller led the Chippewas (6-15, 5-5 MAC) with 25 points, though it came on 7-of-21 shooting. Harrison Henderson had 16 points and nine rebounds.

"Great road win for our guys," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "Very resilient group. Not the best first half, but a really, really good response in the second half. I thought we did a great job moving the basketball took care of the basketball a lot better in the second half."

Ohio won for the second time this season when trailing at halftime. Central Michigan led 29-28 and went up 34-28 with the first two baskets of the second half, but the Bobcats answered with a big run, starting with back-to-back 3-pointers from Sears and Vander Plas to tie it.

Ben Roderick and Vander Plas scored layups, and Sears added a free throw to make it 11 straight points, giving Ohio a 39-34 lead.

The advantage for the Bobcats reach double digits with 10:45 remaining on a Vander Plas layup to make it 50-40.

Schmock knocked down a 3-pointer to give Ohio its biggest lead at 69-58 with only 2:38 to go. Central Michigan made it interesting down the stretch, though.

Henderson dunked and was fouled, and his three-point play got the Chippewas to within eight, and after two Sears free throws, Henderson drained a 3-pointer to bring the score to 71-64. After Miles Brown split two free throws, Henderson made two, and the margin was six with 1:32 to go.

An Ohio turnover gave the Chippewas a chance to make it a one-possession game. Henderson, Cameron Healy and Miller all missed 3-pointers, however. Sears made one of two from the foul line, and Miller answered with two, but that five-point margin was as close as the game got. The Bobcats broke the press to get a Vander Plas dunk to help put it away.

Neither team led by more than one possession in the first half until a Henderson dunk put Central Michigan ahead 27-23 at the 3:44 mark. Miroslav Stafl made a pair of free throws two minutes later to make it a four-point game again, but a Ben Roderick 3-pointer cut the margin to one before halftime.

"They came out and they had a lot of energy," Vander Plas said. "They were playing really well. They are a good team. That's a really good team. We were struggling in the first half to put the ball in the hole little bit, but we went to the second half and just kind of went back to trying to have fun playing basketball. It's as simple as that. Came out and a lot of guys were having fun during warmups and there were smiles on people's faces and just playing hard the rest of the game. I think that's what got done."

The Bobcats shot well at 49.1% overall, including 48% from 3-point range, but they struggled at the foul line until late, going 17 of 26. They had 10 of their 14 turnovers in the first half.

Central Michigan shot 41.4% overall but struggled from the outside, going 5 of 24 (20.8%). It was 19 of 21 at the foul line. The Chippewas also held a 38-28 rebounding advantage.

Ohio heads southeast to take on Eastern Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ypsilanti.

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