Ohio 80, Kent State 72

Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas shoots a 3-pointer in front of Kent State’s Tervell Beck (14) during Friday’s Mid-American Conference game. Vander Plas made six 3-pointers in Ohio’s 80-72 win.

Kent State was on the comeback trail, but Ohio didn’t flinch when the game was on the line.

“Our mindset was bend, don’t break,” Ohio guard Mark Sears said. “Coach is always preaching on that.”

Sears and the Bobcats found the big plays when they needed them, holding on to beat Kent State 80-72 on Friday in the Convocation Center.

Ohio (12-2 overall) pushes its winning streak to seven games and improves to 3-0 in the Mid-American Conference.

The Bobcats are also off to a perfect 8-0 start at home.

The Bobcats led by 18 points in the first half, but a Golden Flashes’ run trimmed the lead to 65-63 with 3:14 remaining.

After a timeout, Sears was able to fire a pass to Ben Roderick on the right wing.

Roderick drained the long-range shot, giving Ohio a 68-63 lead with just under three minutes left.

The Bobcats are a veteran squad, and head coach Jeff Boals reminded them to tighten up their execution during the timeout.

“We made some poor decisions,” Boals said of Kent State’s comeback. “They got some run outs. It was kind of just a timeout to regather, regroup. Ben Roderick came out and hit a huge shot out of the timeout. Great execution on the guys’ part.”

Jason Carter defended on a missed dunk attempt by Kent State’s Justyn Hamilton on the next possession, then Carter followed that up with a score at the basket.

Ohio was suddenly ahead 70-63, the Convo crowd was on its feet and Kent State needed the timeout to regroup.

“We have a pretty mature group,” Boals said. “That’s one thing as a coach you always talk about, playing with a sense of urgency.”

Kent State (7-7, 2-2 MAC) was never within one possession again the rest of the way.

Sears made four free throws and Carter made two to lift Ohio to a 76-66 lead with 1:06 remaining.

Sears was once again spectacular for Ohio. He scored 28 points on 9 of 15 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.

“Offense was doing really well,” Boals said. “We had good balance. Mark Sears is the engine. He’s been phenomenal all year long.”

Sears also made nine out of 10 free throws, eclipsing 20 points for the fifth game in a row.

“He’s been really, really big for us, just doing everything,” Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas said. “Scoring, passing, defending, being a leader. He’s been doing a lot of really good things for us.”

Vander Plas spearheaded a hot shooting start for the Bobcats that allowed them to play with a lead.

Vander Plas, who had just four 3s in his last six games, was 5 of 6 from long range in the first half alone.

“Next shot mentality,” Vander Plas said of the key to working out of his shooting slump. “Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot.”

Vander Plas made six 3-pointers overall, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“He puts the time and effort in,” Boals said. “He shoots before practice. He shoots after practice. I think when he’s making 3s, we’re a different team.”

Ohio’s first five baskets were 3-pointers — with Vander Plas hitting three of them — for an early 15-8 lead.

Vander Plas’ fourth 3-pointer gave Ohio a 22-10 advantage less than eight minutes into the game.

The Bobcats used an 11-2 run to lead 39-21 after another Vander Plas 3-pointer with 3:15 left in the first half.

Ohio still led 63-50 with 6:53 to play when Vander Plas assisted on Roderick’s wide open fast-break layup.

Kent State responded with 11 unanswered points, Sincere Carry’s 3-pointer cutting Ohio’s lead to 63-61.

Sears ended the run with a tough jumper just outside the paint for a 65-61 lead.

Ohio eventually hung on for the win, but Vander Plas said playing with the lead is something to work on going forward.

“We get a good lead, then we kind of let the other team go on a run,” he said. “Gets a little bit too close for our liking. Luckily, we can finish it out most of the time, but that’s something we’re going to keep working on, is kind of controlling the game. When we get that lead, just try to hold that lead until the end.”

Ohio played without regular starting guard Miles Brown, who was out due to COVID protocols. Tommy Schmock got the start and scored five points in 31 minutes.

“We really missed Miles, his game, especially with his ability to guard all positions on the ball,” Sears said.

Roderick added 13 points for Ohio, with Carter adding 10 points and AJ Clayton four points.

Carry led Kent State with 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Ohio will aim to remain perfect both at home and in the conference on Tuesday, hosting Bowling Green at 7 p.m.

“Onto the next game,” Sears said. “We just want to keep winning.”

Ohio 80, Kent State 72

Kent State;26;46;—;72


KENT STATE 72 (7-7, 2-2 MAC)

Justyn Hamilton 3 1-2 7, Malique Jacobs 4 8-10 16, Sincere Carry 8 8-9 26, Andrew Garcia 4 1-2 9, Jalen Sullinger 2 0-0 4, Tervell Bek 2 0-0 5, Jeremiah Hernandez 2 0-0 5, Akeem Odusipe 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 25 18-23 72; 3-point field goals: 4 (Carry 2, Beck, Hernandez 1 apiece)

OHIO 80 (12-2, 3-0 MAC)

Ben Roderick 4 3-4 13, Ben Vander Plas 6 2-2 20, Jason Carter 3 4-4 10, Mark Sears 9 9-10 28, Tommy Schmock 1 2-3 5, Sam Towns 0 0-0 0, AJ Clayton 2 0-0 4, IJ Ezuma 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 25 20-23 80; 3-point field goals: 10 (Vander Plas 6, Roderick 2, Sears, Schmock 1 apiece)

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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