Back at home

Ohio sophomore guard Jason Preston (right), seen here earlier this season, had 20 points and 12 assists to help the Bobcats to a 91-81 win over Detroit Mercy on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 inside the Convocation Center.

Taken separately, the Bobcats out scored the opposition a combined 38-10 during the first four minutes and the last four minutes.

In-between? Well, there was a lot of bending — but no breaking — as Ohio held off Detroit Mercy in a 91-81 win inside the Convocation Center on Saturday afternoon.

Senior guard Jordan Dartis had 26 points after an incredible start to lead Ohio (5-3). Sophomore guard Jason Preston added 20 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, and sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas added 16 points in a big plays in crunch time.

The Bobcats never trailed, but did see a 25-point first-half lead dip to a single point with four minutes to go.

“One, we could’ve easily lost that game,” said Ohio head coach Jeff Boals. “That shows you kind of the resiliency of this group. We always talk about bend, but don’t break. I thought that kind of happened.

“Give our guys credit for staying with it and getting stops when we needed to.”

Detroit (1-5) looked to be nothing more than window dressing for Ohio’s first home game in three weeks after the game’s opening minutes.

Dartis unloaded a one-man salvo from the opening tip-off. He hit his first six shots, five from 3-point range, and blistered the nets for a whopping 18 points in the first 3:59 off the clock. Ohio led 25-5 by the first media time out.

In his last two games, Dartis has scored 58 points and hit 14 of 22 (63.6 percent) from 3-point range.

“All I can say is I was open. Coach wants me to shoot them and my teammates want me to shoot it,” explained Dartis. “They found me when I was open, and then I just kind of do my job.”

Vander Plas grinned and shook his head at Dartis’ explanation afterward.

“I think I actually saw the flames come off his hands a couple of times,” Vander Plas joked.

“People were getting hype but that was unbelievable. Man, I can’t wait to watch that in film.”

Dartis capped his barrage with a four-point play on a pump-shot 3-pointer made after contact. Vander Plas scored five more, and the lead was 20 before it had truly begun.

But the Titans weathered the storm and worked their way back into it. Willy Isiani had 15 points and Justin Miller added 12 for Detroit, and both made enough shots in the first half to pull the Titans to win 50-34 at the break after trailing by as much as 25.

And then Antoine Davis took over. The Detroit guard blew up in the second half, hitting deep jumpers off the move, sticking fadeaway over contesting defenders, and setting up teammates.

Davis finished with a game-high 33 points and added eight assists. He had 24 points and six assists in the first 16 minutes of the second half.

And when Davis hit a 3 from the top of the key with 4:11 to go, the Titans pulled to within 77-76.

But Ohio and Vander Plas found ways to finish it off. The Bobcats, pushed to the brink of a collapse, responded with a 12-0 run to put the game away. Vander Plas, shooting 50 percent at the foul line this season, hit six straight free throws and added an assist and a reverse layup during run.

Vander Plas drove the lane, was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 79-76. He cleared a rebound after a Davis miss, was fouled and hit two free throws. Then, after Davis had the ball taken away thanks to a trap from Preston and freshman Lunden McDay, Vander Plas scored on a nifty reverse layup to make it 83-76.

“His last eight minutes were really good,” Boals said. “Got some big man rebounds. We needed every point he had.”

After pulling to within one, Detroit missed its next seven shots from the field, had a turnover, and missed two free throws. Preston capped the 12-0 run with two free throws to make it 89-76 with 1:03 left.

“We started switching later. When a guy gets going like that, you have to get it out of his hands,” Dartis said. “When (Davis) is rocking you and getting comfortable…you just try to make him uncomfortable.”

It wasn’t all good news for Ohio. Freshman wing Ben Roderick left the game in the first half and did not return with a hand injury. Boals said Roderick was due for x-rays after the game to determine the severity of the injury.

OU is also playing Preston and Dartis heavy minutes — and both logged a full 40 on Saturday.

“Hopefully it’s good news,” Boals said.

“Going forward, we’ve got to start working our bench,” he added. “That’s on me to do extra work with those guys.”

The Bobcats should be able to make it three straight wins on Wednesday, when they’re scheduled to face non-DI opponent Rio Grande in the Convo starting at 7 p.m. OU is ahead of schedule so far, and took another step by figuring out how to win a game that seemed to be slipping away.

“There’s an art to winning games. You got to find ways to win games,” Boals said.

“For a group that didn’t see a lot of success last year…to be 5-3 I don’t think there’s anyone who thought we’d be in that situation,” he added.

“It tells you a lot about the guys we have. Their will to win is there.”

Ohio 91, Detroit 81

Detroit 34 47 — 81

Ohio 50 41 — 91

DETROIT (1-5) 81

Justin Miller 4 4-4 12, Chris Brandon 1 0-0 2, Antoine Davis 12 5-6 33, Marquis Moore 0 0-0 0, Brad Calipari 2 0-0 6, Alonde LeGrand 0 2-2 2, Boe Nguidjol 2 2-5 7, Dwayne Rose Jr. 1 2-3 4, Willy Isiani 5 0-0 15, Jordan Gorman 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 27 15-20 81; 3-point goals — 12-35 (Isiani 5-9, Davis 4-15, Calipari 2-5, Nguidjol 1-1, Miller 0-3, LeGrand 0-1, Gorman 0-1).

OHIO (5-3) 91

Ben Vander Plas 4 8-9 16, Sylvester Ogbonda 4 3-4 11, Jason Preston 6 7-8 20, Lunden McDay 3 2-2 9, Jordan Dartis 9 2-3 26, Ben Roderick 2 0-0 5, Nolan Foster 2 0-0 4, Mason McMurray 0 0-0 0, Marvin Price 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 30 22-26 91; 3-point goals — 9-20 (Dartis 6-9, Roderick 1-1, McDay 1-2, Preston 1-4, Vander Plas 0-2, McMurray 0-2).

TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Field goals — Detroit 27-57 (.474), 3-point goals 12-35 (.343); Ohio 30-56 (.536), 3-point goals 9-20 (.450); Free throws — Detroit 15-20 (.750), Ohio 22-26 (.846); Rebounds — Detroit 27/8 offensive (LeGrand 6); Ohio 34/9 offensive (Ogbonda/Preston 8); Assists — Detroit 10 (Davis 8), Ohio 18 (Preston 12); Steals — Detroit 6, Ohio 6 (Preston 3); Blocks — Detroit 2 (Nguidjol 2), Ohio 1; Turnovers — Detroit 14, Ohio 12; Personal fouls — Detroit 20, Ohio 18; Attendance — 3,030; Technical fouls — None.

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

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