‘Cats Roll Past Rio Grande In Preseason Matchup

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ATHENS — The preseason is the best time for coaches and teams to experiment with new lineups and player combinations.

Ohio head coach Saul Phillips did that and more Saturday afternoon, sending all 13 active Bobcats into the game while getting nine players more than 10 minutes of playing time, in the Bobcats’ 93-58 exhibition victory over Rio Grande.

“We were in a terrific rotation. It seemed like everyone that stepped in there was able to perform because they felt good,” Phillips said. “I can play them all a few more minutes knowing that I can get more frequent rest for them.”

The Bobcats ran a healthy mix of small lineups, big lineups and mixed lineups at the Red Storm all afternoon, showing a versatility that they hope could become a fixture of their season.

“It forces other teams to adjust to us,” redshirt sophomore forward Jason Carter said. “Having so many versatile guys, too. Allowing me to move out (on the perimeter) a little bit. There’s just unlimited things we can do with the team we have.”

Carter, playing for the first time since Dec.16, 2017, scored 18 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 25 min.

Sophomore point guard Teyvion Kirk picked up right where he left off last season, finishing with a game-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting while also racking up 4 steals.

“It’s a great feeling being back out there with our guys, playing in the Convo in front of out great fans,” Kirk said. “It was great to get out there and play against a different team, to get out there and get a different look.”

A couple new names made a difference for the Bobcats in the victory as well.

Ben Vander Plas, a sophomore forward who missed his entire freshman season due to a leg injury suffered prior to the start of the season, made an immediate impact on the game.

Checking in at the 15:42 mark of the 1st half, Vander Plas went on a 7-0 run by himself to extend the Ohio lead to 14. The forward would tally 14 points in his first 19 minutes of action as a Bobcat.

Antonio Cowart, a transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College, provided a spark of athleticism and playmaking for the Bobcats. The junior finished with 10 points filling in the starting spot left vacated by the injured Jordan Dartis.

Injuries have proved to be the downfall for the Bobcats over recent years. However, if they can avoid the injury bug this year, this team could be a surprise team in the Mid-American Conference despite being picked to finish fourth in the MAC East last week at the conference’s media day.

“Me, personally, I’m ok with (being the underdog),” Kirk said. “As long we continue to play our game, you can have us last or first, we’ll be very confident going into March.”

There’s a lot of games to be played between now and March, including a daunting non-conference schedule that includes a trip to Jamaica and visits to both Xavier and Purdue.

The Bobcats will tip-off their regular season next Wednesday when they Wilberforce at 7pm in the Convo.