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Sears' layup at buzzer gives Ohio win over Rice in CBI

Carter has 26 points, 12 rebounds in 65-64 win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mark Sears struggled for most of the game but came up clutch when it mattered.

Sears went coast to coast in the final seconds for the game-winning layup to lift Ohio to a 65-64 victory against Rice in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational on Saturday night at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The Owls (16-17) rallied from a 10-point deficit with 5:24 remaining, taking the lead on a Carl Pierre jumper with less than six seconds left. The Bobcats’ inbound pass went to Sears, who took the ball all the way to the other end, finishing high off the backboard over a bigger Rice defender.

“An unbelievable play by Mark at the end,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “We made one more play than them, and that's why it's 40-minute game and not 39 minutes, 59 seconds.”

Sears finished with just eight points on 4-of-15 shooting with six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Instead, it was Jason Carter who carried the No. 3 seed Bobcats (25-9) with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Ben Vander Plas added 13 points and six rebounds.

Rice, the No. 14 seed, went up 60-59 on a Travis Evee jumper in the paint with just over a minute remaining, but despite his struggles early, Sears put Ohio back in front with a basket with 38 seconds left.

Carter blocked Chris Mullins’ attempt to put the Owls back in front and then stole the ensuing inbounds pass. Vander Plas hit two free throws to move the Bobcats in front by three with 19 seconds to go.

Pierre scored a quick basket for Rice, making it 63-62, and Miles Brown could not catch up to Carter’s full-court inbound pass that followed, giving the ball back to the Owls and setting up Pierre’s go-ahead shot before Sears negated it with his own at the buzzer.

“It's just fun,” Carter said. “We get to keep playing basketball. I get to keep playing basketball with the guys I love, and that's the most important thing right now.”

Ben Roderick connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bobcats their biggest lead of the second half, 54-44, but the Owls got back into it in just a few minutes with a 10-2 run. Vander Plas completed a three-point play to extend the Ohio advantage to five before six straight points by Rice.

“In order to extend that lead and win by a better margin, those 50/50 balls, those loose balls, we have to get,” Boals said.

Ohio scored the game’s first six points, holding Rice scoreless for the first 3:35 of the game, and the Bobcats threatened to run away with it. AJ Clayton’s 3-pointer with 10:26 left in the first half made the score 17-4.

Rice finally came to lift after that, going on a 22-8 run to take a 26-25 lead late in the first half, but a Vander Plas layup put Ohio ahead by a single point at halftime.

“Our guys have battled,” Boals said. “We didn't end the way we wanted to, and we could have easily come in here not ready to play."

The Bobcats built up a lead again in the early part of the second half, taking a 47-38 advantage on a Vander Plas 3-pointer at the 11:51 mark, but the Owls prevented the lead from reaching double digits until the Roderick 3-pointer six and a half minutes later.

Pierre paced Rice with 20 points and eight rebounds. Evee scored 12 points, Mullins had 11, and Mylyjael Poteat had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“We did a really good job throughout the whole game of taking their 3s away,” Boals said.

A good 3-point shooting team, Rice was just 4 of 17 from long range but shot 46% from the field overall. The Bobcats finished at just 39%, including 4 of 22 on 3-pointers, using an 14-8 discrepancy in turnovers to get a few more opportunities. The Bobcats went 11 of 15 at the foul line, while the Owls were just 4 of 5.

“We're coming down here to win,” Carter said. “Obviously, we get to enjoy the beach. That's a plus. But we really enjoy playing with each other."

Ohio advances to the tournament quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. Monday. It faces the winner between No. 6 seed Abilene Christian (23-10) and No. 11 seed Troy (20-11), which play their first-round matchup at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

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