BLOOMINGTON, IN -- Chalk up another "W"-- a very big "W"-- for the Ohio Bobcats!
Ben Vander Plas scored 17 points and led a key second half rally as Ohio came from behind to edge the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. With the victory, the Bobcats move on to face No. 5 seed Creighton Monday night in Indianapolis.
"I'm just really, really proud of our guys," Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. "There were multiple times in the second half they could have broke. We always talk about bend but don't break. We got down 38-31, Ben Vander Plas made some huge plays in the second half. Jason Preston made some great plays, made big free throws down the stretch. Very fortunate to win the game."
Virginia, defending NCAA tournament champions, owned a No. 4 seed for this year's event. No small part of its regular season success came from a defense that ranked sixth in the country. They say defense travels, and the Cavaliers certainly had it with them over the game's forty minutes.
Virginia hounded . . .
Junior Jason Preston, Ohio's leading scorer and Mid-American Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player, was a focus point for Virginia and ultimately took just seven shots on the night. He made four and finished with 11 points. However, he also dished out eight assists and grabbed 13 rebounds. His contributions on the boards helped the 'Cats own a 38-30 rebound advantage.
Joining Preston and Vander Plas in double figures was Ben Roderick with 15. The latter two players provided six of Ohio's seven treys, although the Bobcats hit just 7-of-23 from beyond the arc overall. Ohio made 21-of-50 (42%) from the floor and ultimately fought off a desperate Cavalier team with key free throws in the final minute. After shooting 70.1 percent on the year, the 'Cats hit 13-of-14 against Virginia.
The Cavaliers went 8-of-10 at the line, 12-of-60 (35%) from the field and 8-of-31 (25.8%) outside the arc. Sam Hauser led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, although six of those points were at the free throw line. He was 4-of-16 overall and 1-of-8 from long distance. Trey Murphy III also reached double figures, scoring with 12 pints. Eight of his nine shots were treys, and he made four -- half of UV's total.
Virginia enjoyed its biggest lead of the night (38-31) following Kihei Clark's layup at 14:36. Again, Ohio took a time out, and again the 'Cats inched their way back while UV's offense struggled. After the Bobcats time out, Virginia went for just over 10 minutes without scoring a field goal.
Ohio finally moved in front at 7:44 on a deep Vander Plas trey. That made it a 42-40 game and the redshirt junior forward followed with another triple from the same spot less than a minute later. This time Virginia called for a time out, with Ohio following.
"Obviously basketball is a game of runs," Vander Plas said. "You always hear that. Yeah, that was a little run. We got a couple good shots, got a couple stops in a row. That's a big thing for us. When we can string some stops together, we're a pretty good offensive team. The big focus for us is getting those stops that lead to buckets on the offensive end."
A Ben Roderick 3-pointer at 1:06 gave the 'Cats a 56-49 lead and it was still a seven point edge (58-51) with 24 ticks remaining. When the Cavaliers pulled with two at 60-58 with five seconds left, Lunden McDay drained two free throws to seal the Ohio victory. It was the Bobcats fourth straight win and 10th over Ohio's last 11 outings.