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Abilene Christian tops Ohio in CBI quarterfinal

Sears' career-high 37 points not enough with Carter out

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jason Carter left the game with an injury after only 14 seconds, and Ohio trailed nearly the whole night in a 91-86 loss to Abilene Christian in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational on Monday night at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Mark Sears scored a career-high 37 points, and Ben Vander Plas had 19 points and 11 rebounds in what could be his final game, but it was not enough for the No. 3 seed Bobcats (25-10) as their season came to an end.

“This isn’t indicative of our season,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “Second most wins in school history. These guys were fun to coach. They’re high character guys.”

Carter was fouled on the game’s first possession and was able to make one free throw before leaving the game. He was on the bench in a sling after that and did not return.

Airion Simmons followed with a 3-pointer for the Wildcats as part of eight straight points, and they led the rest of the way, though the Bobcats made multiple runs.

Their final push was when a Tommy Schmock 3-pointer cut Abilene Christian’s lead to 86-82 with 42 seconds left. Ohio had a shot to get even closer after Reggie Miller split two free throws, but the Bobcats turned it over, and the Wildcats then closed it out at the foul line.

With Carter out, AJ Clayton scored 11 points in 16 minutes, but he fouled out with 4:54 remaining, about two minutes after Ben Roderick did the same.

“AJ stepped up in the minutes he did play,” Boals said.

The Bobcats got to within 10-8 on a Vander Plas 3-pointer with 13:59 left in the first half, but the Wildcats (25-10) moved in front by nine on multiple occasions in the first half before settling on a 36-29 advantage at halftime.

Miles Brown’s only basket of the game cut Ohio’s deficit to 41-38 early in the second half, and after Abilene Christian pushed its lead back up to nine, a Roderick jumper made it 63-60 with 7:18 remaining.

A Simmons jumper gave the Wildcats their biggest lead, 72-62, with 4:20 left, and they were up 78-68 and then 80-70 with 2:00 remaining. The Bobcats extended the game with fouls after that to get as close as four.

In a foul-filled game, Ohio went 27 of 40 free throws.

“You convert a few more of those, it’s a different game, but I’m not dwelling on missed shots,” Boals said. “I love coaching these guys.”

Coryon Mason had 20 points, while Simmons finished with 18 points for the No. 6 seed Wildcats, who advance to face Middle Tennessee in the tournament semifinals Tuesday.

Tommy Schmock had nine points for Ohio in his last game. Already in his fifth year at Ohio and with multiple degrees in hand, Vander Plas has the option to return for one more season.

“Ben Vander Plas is going to have a decision to make, whether he stays or leaves,” Boals said. “If he leaves, what can you say about him? One of the best players in a Bobcat uniform. He’ll leave a legacy.”

Ohio played the season without injured forward Dwight Wilson and then lost another starter, Lunden McDay, left the team after only a few games. Nonetheless, Ohio found quite a bit of success.

“You kind of have to reinvent yourself,” Boals said. “Your depth might not be quite the same when you’re counting on those two guys to play.”

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