Jason Preston Bobcats Mens Basketball
Jason Preston dribbles the ball up the floor during the Bobcats’ 73-49 exhibition win over Capital on November 2, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Men’s Basketball: ‘Cats Show Off Youth in 73-49 Exhibition Win over Capital

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ATHENS, OH — As he walked off the floor, “Stand Up and Cheer” played just as it had for victories during his playing career as a Bobcat in the 90s. 

The biggest difference now? Jeff Boals was the head coach of his alma mate, coaching his first game in the Convocation Center.

“It was a surreal feeling. I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time. I’m really excited to be the head coach at this great university,” Boals said. “I look forward to many wins in this building.”

The Bobcats won on Saturday, but it won’t count towards their record. However, given the youth on the team, the 73-49 exhibition win over Capital still means something.

All throughout the preseason, the topic that surrounded the Bobcats was the incredible number of freshman and sophomores Boals had on his roster. Of the 14 players on the 2019-20 Ohio squad, 11 of them are either freshman or sophomores. 

Three of those started the game (Jason Preston, Ben Vander Plas, and Lunden McDay) and of the 10 players that saw the court on Saturday afternoon, five of them were seeing their first-ever action as a Bobcat.

But even with all that factored in, the ‘Cats had a good showing.

“I thought they did a good job. Especially Lunden McDay and Nolan Foster,” Boals said. “We’re gonna depend on them and I was impressed with those guys.”

McDay, a freshman from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, showed great promise in his 29 minutes on the floor. He filled the stat sheet, finishing with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocked shots.

“He can play both ends of the floor. He never has a bad day, comes in and has a lunch pail mentality. He doesn’t play like a typical freshman,” Boals said of McDay. “He doesn’t know how good he can be.”

“It felt great to show everyone that we’re a pretty good team,” McDay said. “Everyone’s been telling me how it gets in the Convo, so being able to see a home game, it was good.”

He wasn’t the only player that impressed on Saturday. The fans in the Convo were introduced to the new Jason Preston. The sophomore point guard got bigger and taller (not just his hair) over the off-season and showed that he has the ability to orchestrate the offense that Boals has implemented.

“You guys saw a little gist of Jay Preston, but once the wheels start turning you guys are going to see a lot more of him,” Ohio guard Jordan Dartis said. “He’s really a workhorse and he brings a lot to this team.”

“He’s almost like Linus’ security blanket. You feel comfortable with him out there and making decisions, getting guys shots,” Boals said. “Jay is gonna run the show. He’s been a rock for us.”

Preston led the Bobcats with 17 points in the game while also grabbing seven boards and dishing out six assists.

Also returning to the floor this season is Jordan Dartis. The redshirt-senior has not played a game since March 5, 2018, due to a hip injury that sidelined him for the entirety of last season.

After shooting 0-for-5 in the first half, Dartis finally saw a shot go in for the first time in a basketball game in 611 days when he knocked down a three with 14:41 to go in the second half.

“I was a little nervous thinking about the opportunity to be a basketball player again. I’m just very grateful right now,” Dartis said. “I’m glad to just get that first game under my belt and shake some rust off.”

Dartis finished with 13 points, all in the second half.

With the youth came some struggles, though. The offense seemed to come and go in spurts and the defense allowed Capital to gobble up 11 offensive rebounds. Every time the Bobcats built out a big lead, the Crusaders would claw back a bit.

These are signs of a young team.

“Seven of our guys have never played a division one game. The regular season starts Tuesday night. The intensity level is going to crank up,” Boals said. “But it was a good start today.”

The beginning of the regular season does no favors for the ‘Cats. Their first regular-season game is a trip to Philadelphia to take on St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies were picked to finish 5th in a stacked Atlantic 10 Conference.

Tip-off for the season-opener is set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Reilly Center.