Jason Preston Bobcats Basketball
Jason Preston (0) dribbles towards a defender during the Bobcats’ 88-50 win over Heidelberg on November 9, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski

Ohio Men’s Basketball: Overmatched ‘Cats Drop First Game of Season to No. 10 Villanova

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — For the first 14 minutes, the Bobcats were playing even with Villanova. As a matter of fact, with 6:47 to play in the first half, Ohio held a slim 17-16 lead over the No. 10 team in the country.

Just three minutes later, the Bobcats trailed by 12 and the Wildcats never looked back.

10th-ranked Villanova (2-1) used a 27-4 run to close the first half to take an insurmountable lead, easily running away with a 78-54 win over Ohio (3-1) on Saturday afternoon in the Wells Fargo Center.

In that run, Villanova went from being absolutely ice cold from the floor, starting the game 5-of-19, to on fire in a matter of a few minutes. In a span of 6:25 at the end of the first half, the Wildcats made 8-of-10 shots, including five three-pointers, to blow the game open.

Up until that point, it was a struggle for either team to put the ball in the basket. The Bobcats were never able to heat up, however. They shot just 10-of-25 in the first half, which included missing all eight attempts from long range. Ohio came into the game shooting 45.9 percent from beyond the arch, which was good for ninth-best in the country.

Villanova’s tight defense dropped that percentage down below 40 by holding the ‘Cats to just 3-of-20 from three-point range.

Even down in the paint, the Bobcats were unable to find any sort of rhythm offensively. They often were forced to put up tough shots in the face of a long and athletic Villanova defense that made life miserable for the ‘Cats.

That ‘Nova defense also forced Ohio to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half, which led to multiple run-outs for the Wildcats and 12 points off of turnovers. The second half was a lot of the same as Ohio turned the ball over another six times. Villanova scored 18 points off Bobcat turnovers on the afternoon.

Thanks to that 24-7 run, Villanova took what was a close game for the majority of the first half and turned it into a 22-point halftime lead with the Wildcats up 43-21.

They didn’t let their foot off the gas coming out of the locker room, either. Villanova scored 13 of the first 20 points of the half to push their lead out to a game-high 28 points and Ohio was never able to cut it to less than 20 for the remainder of the game.

In the game, the Wildcats actually shot better from three-point range (14-of-31) than they did from inside the arc (9-of-28). The Wildcats entered the game shooting just 37 percent from distance and were coming off a 10-of-30 night against Ohio State in their most recent game.

However, even with the lackluster performance by the Bobcats’ offense on Saturday, sophomores Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston once again put up great numbers to continue their hot starts to the season.

Vander Plas tied Villanova’s Saddiq Bey for the game-high in points with 19, which is also a new season-high for the forward. Vander Plas also grabbed 10 rebounds to tally his first double-double of the season.

Preston scored 16 points of his own, making it his fourth game in a row scoring in double figures. In his freshman campaign, he never scored in double figures for consecutive games once. 

Coming into the game, Preston was third in the country averaging 9.7 assists per game. On Saturday, he nearly kept to that pace despite a slow start. Preston finished the game with 8 assists, dropping his average slightly to 9.25 per game.

Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, the rest of the lineup, seven players, only totaled 19 points in the game and shot 7-of-25 from the field and 1-of-11 from three.

Saturday was one of three games the Bobcats will likely play against ranked opponents this season. The next one? Baylor. This coming Thursday.

The opening round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational will be another tough game for a young Bobcat team, but hey, they get to go to the beach for a few days.

The game against the No. 24 Baylor Bears is set to tip-off at 4:30 p.m. in the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University.