Jordan Dartis Bobcats Basketball
Jordan Dartis (35) pulls up to shoot during the Bobcats’ 88-50 win over Heidelberg on November 9, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Men’s Basketball: Dartis, Vander Plas Power Bobcats Past Morehead State

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ATHENS, OH — With 3:34 to play in the first half, Ohio head coach Jeff Boals called emphatically timeout and took his coat off, showing a level of frustration with his team that Bobcats fans hadn’t seen yet. He had, after all, just watched his team squander an early 12-point lead to find themselves tied at 30 with Morehead State.

But for the Bobcats (8-4), that timeout, plus a halftime talking to, was just what they needed to pull themselves out of the pre-Holiday Break sleepwalking that plagued their first half on the way to a 82-76 win over Morehead State (5-7) on Saturday afternoon in the Convo.

“I think we got comfortable, which we can’t do, especially early in the game,’’ Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas said. “Even when we get ahead, we have to continue to play like that the rest of the game.”

The Bobcats built their double-digit lead by shooting the lights out in the early going. Over the first nine-plus minutes of play, Ohio was shooting 10-11 from the field, including going 4-of-5 from long distance to build a 25-13 lead. 

The rest of the half, they shot just 4-of-17 while the Eagles mounted a comeback and, eventually, took a slim lead into the locker room at halftime.

“Going into the locker room, we all just sat down and figured out what we really needed to do,” Ohio guard Jordan Dartis said. “That was more so just playing hard, and consistently, over the final 20 minutes.”

“At halftime, I told them that this was the most disappointed I’ve been in this group from an effort and energy standpoint,” Boals said. “We’re not good enough to just roll out and beat someone.”

“This was the first time I felt like we let our guard down…on defense,” he added.

After holding the Eagles to just 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting over the first 10 minutes of the game, the Bobcats’ lax defense allowed Morehead State to catch fire. They finished the first half on a 26-13 run while shooting 8-of-13.

But even with the defensive breakdown over the final 10 minutes, the ‘Cats only trailed by one, 39-38, going into halftime.

“I didn’t yell or scream at halftime, I just told them I was disappointed in our effort,” Boals said. “I felt that, during that timeout, they really needed challenged – the intensity wasn’t there and the effort wasn’t there.”

It took a bit of time into the second half, but eventually, the Bobcats were able to shake off whatever cobwebs were afflicting them and they were able to pull away late.

That didn’t come before some drama, though.

In the first 15 minutes of the second half, the lead changed nine times to go along with three ties. However, it never truly felt like the Bobcats were not in control of the game. Despite the high amount of lead changes, Morehead State only held a lead in the game for 3:57 while Ohio led for 33 minutes. 

The Bobcats grabbed the lead for the final time with 5:16 to play on a Lunden McDay 3-pointer. After that three gave Ohio a 68-65 lead, the Bobcat defense finally came to play. 

Over the final five minutes, Morehead State was just 3-of-10 from the field and the Bobcats were able to come up with key rebounds and stops down the stretch that kept the Eagles from tying the game again when managed to cut the Ohio lead down to three on two occasions in the final minute.

“You’re going to have games where you’re going to have to find ways to win – this was one of those games. We had to find a way, and that’s what great teams do,” Boals said. “We could have easily folded, I’ll give our guys credit.”

“Towards the end, we got some stops on those guys. We knew we couldn’t trade baskets,” he added.

Throughout the game, though, the Bobcats never struggled all that much on the offensive end. Aside from the cold streak to end the first half, the Bobcats were able to put the ball in the basket, almost at will.

The 54.7 percent the ‘Cats shot from the field was good for their second-best performance of the season in that category. Ohio’s 10 made threes was also the fourth time this season they’ve hit 10+ shots from long distance. 

The biggest factors in the offense producing at a high level were the duo of Vander Plas and Dartis. The pair combined for 49 of the Bobcats’ 82 points in the game.

Vander Plas totaled 24 points on the afternoon, tying a career-high. He also grabbed 11 rebounds to notch his third double-double of the season.

“I saw that they weren’t doubling, so we stuck with it,” Vander Plas said.

“He was eatin’” Dartis added of Vander Plas’ performance. “He was getting buckets and that’s what he likes to do.”

Dartis got plenty of buckets himself, finishing with a team-leading 25 points, making five of his 10 three-point attempts in the game. Saturday was the third time in five games that the senior has topped the 20-point mark and he has made 50 percent (32-of-64) of his shot attempts in that span.

Saturday’s game marks the fifth game of a six-game homestand for the Bobcats, who have not left the comfort of the Convo since November 30. The schedule has been a welcome one for a young team such as Ohio.

“I think it’s good. Guys need to start getting into routines, and with so many young guys, routines matter,” Boals said.

The ‘Cats close out the homestand on December 29 when they host Campbell. The Camels (8-3) come to Athens for the second consecutive season.

That game is set to tip-off at 2 p.m.