Ohio Bobcats

Ohio’s Ben Roderick scores at the basket against Saint Francis’ Mark Flagg during Saturday’s game inside the Convocation Center. Ohio won, 78-75.

What once was an 18-point lead for Ohio University turned into a wild scramble in an effort to save a victory.

Mark Sears and Ben Roderick were able to do enough defensively to finally end Saint Francis’ comeback bid.

Ohio held on for a 78-75 win over Saint Francis on Saturday inside the Convocation Center.

The Bobcats led 76-73 when Saint Francis’ Ramiir Dixon-Conover made two free throws with 11.4 seconds left to cut Ohio’s lead to a single point.

The Red Flash brought full-court pressure out of a timeout, and Ohio got the ball inbounded to Ben Vander Plas.

Vander Plas was double teamed and Maxwell Land was able to strip the ball away.

Chaos ensued as Saint Francis recovered the loose ball. Ronell Giles Jr drove into the paint and missed a shot over Sears.

Saint Francis’ Josh Cohen got an offensive rebound, but missed the putback attempt while Sears and Roderick were defending him.

The Red Flash wouldn’t get a third chance. Sears grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled with just 0.3 left on the clock.

“In that type of situation we are trying not to foul and put them on the line,” Sears said. “So we just go straight up and after he misses we’ve got to find a body and box out and we have to come out with that 50/50 to ball, which we did and that’s how we won the game at the end.”

Sears made both free throws for the three-point lead. Saint Francis’ Hail Mary prayer on a deep inbounds pass was knocked away by Miles Brown, and the Bobcats escaped with the victory.

“Just feel fortunate to win,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “Made enough plays at the end to get it done.”

It was a game that wound up being closer than the Bobcats would have liked after they took a 41-23 lead with 1:18 left in the first half.

The Red Flash scored the final seven points of the first half, and Ohio seemingly struggled to regain the control it once had.

“We knew at halftime, it didn’t feel good,” Boals said. “I would have felt better with an 18 to 22 point lead. The momentum, you always want to close a half well, start a half well and we did not start the second half or end the first half very well.”

The first half had a clunky finish for the Bobcats. Their bench received a warning late in the first half, Boals said afterwards it was for an assistant coach leaving his seat to give instruction to a player on the court.

Boals also noted that the officials told him after halftime that they made a mistake in issuing the warning.

Jason Carter was also given a technical foul during the stretch, and Ohio’s lead eventually was just 41-30 going to halftime.

“That was my fault,” Boals said. “I was on those guys (officials) in the first half. I thought the way they were guarding us, there were some fouls that weren’t called.”

The Red Flash simply didn’t go away in the second half. A 12-4 run allowed them to trail just 56-54 with 10:47 left on Giles’ fast-break hoop.

“We didn’t execute our defense,” Brown said. “They did a good job of getting to the rim.”

The Bobcats seemingly regained control, going ahead 74-62 on Vander Plas’ layup with 4:57 remaining.

Ohio was still up 76-69 when Sears scored on a pull up jumper in the paint with 2:09 left.

The Bobcats had to hold off Saint Francis from there. Dixon-Conover’s layup cut the lead to 76-73 with 1:05 left, and Ohio missed a shot on the other end.

That set up the furious finish in the closing seconds, with Ohio finding a way to improve to 5-0 at home.

“Good teams, they always find a way to win like we did tonight,” Sears said. “Things wasn’t going our way the second half, and coach always says bend, don’t break and that’s what we did.”

Sears led Ohio with 24 points on 9 of 14 shooting, adding five assists.

Sears was also charged with eight of the Bobcats’ 20 turnovers. It was a number that Sears said he needs to improve on going forward.

“That’s really on me just making carless passes and not being aware of who’s behind me,” he said.

“I just have to use this as a tool to learn and move on from this.”

Ohio had three other players in double figures. Vander Plas had 13 points and three assists. Carter and Brown each scored 10 points. Tommy Schmock (eight points, six assists) and Sam Towns (seven points) contributed off the bench.

Myles Thompson led Saint Francis with 19 points, making 7 of 11 from the field. Maxwell Land added 15 points, while Giles had 12 points and seven assists.

The Bobcats return to action on Saturday at 3 p.m. with a trip to Stetson. It’s their only game in the next 11 days as players head into finals week.

“Just keep it going,” Brown said. “We have some big games coming up, crucial games going into conference play. So we’re just looking to get some momentum going into conference play and just win as many games as we can.”

Lunden McDay update

Ohio junior guard Lunden McDay missed his third straight game on Saturday. Boals said that McDay is still a part of the program, but is on an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

“Nothing covid related, nothing disciplinary related. Personal reasons,” Boals said.

McDay, who played his high school ball at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, is averaging 5.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in five games.

Ohio 78, Saint Francis 75

Saint Francis 30 45 — 75

Ohio 41 37 — 78

SAINT FRANCIS 75 (3-4)

Myles Thompson 7 4-4 19, Mark Flagg 0 0-0 0, Ramiir Dixon-Conover 4 2-2 10, Ronell Giles Jr 6 0-0 12, Maxwell Land 3 8-9 15, Marlon Hargis 2 0-0 5, Josh Cohen 6 2-2 14, Zahree Harrison 0 0-0 0, Luke Ruggery 0 0-0 0, Jeriah Colemon 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 28 16-17 75; 3-point field goals: 3 (Thompson, Land, Hargis 1 apiece)

OHIO 78 (6-2)

Ben Roderick 2 0-1 4, Ben Vander Plas 5 2-3 13, Jason Carter 4 1-3 10, Mark Sears 9 4-5 24, Miles Brown 3 2-2 10, Sam Towns 3 0-0 7, Tommy Schmock 3 0-0 8, AJ Clayton 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 30 9-14 78; 3-point field goals: 9 (Sears, Brown, Schmock 2 apiece, Vander Plas, Carter, Towns 1 apiece)


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

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