Preston Bobcats Basketball
Jason Preston (0) puts up a shot during the Bobcats’ 77-46 win over Miami on February 8, 2020. PHOTO: Ben Wielgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Men’s Basketball: Bobcats’ Stout Defense, Preston’s Triple-Double Fuel Blowout Win over Miami

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ATHENS, OH — On what would become a truly historic day for Ohio basketball, the longest-tenured Bobcat wasted no time rewriting the record books.

Just over a minute into the game, Jason Preston fired a cross-court pass to Jordan Dartis, who was standing wide open on the left wing. Standing four feet behind the three-point arc, the senior hoisted up a shot that rolled around and touched every bit of the rim before falling through.

For Dartis, that was three-point make number 291, pushing him ahead of Bobcat great Nick Kellogg and to the top of the all-time made threes list in Bobcats’ history.

“It’s huge. When it comes down the road, I’m going to look back on it. That’s big time. I’m very appreciative and very humbled. I passed Nick Kellogg…shout out to him,” Dartis said. “He’s an OU legend, so to be able to replace him at the number one spot is great.”

Ohio (11-12, 3-8 MAC), behind a stingy defense and Preston’s first career triple-double, recorded their biggest win ever over arch-rival Miami (9-14, 2-8 MAC), 77-46, to snap a four-game losing streak and win their ninth straight “Battle of the Bricks” game in Athens.

“(Earlier in the week) I wrote on the board ‘400’. I told the guys they had 400 minutes left in the season guaranteed. I don’t care if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, play with a senior sense of urgency,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “Come in with a one-game mentality. I thought this was the first time we put a full 40 minutes together.”

The Bobcats definitely showed the urgency that their head coach was looking for in the first half, especially on the defensive end. After Miami made two of their first three shot attempts to jump out to an early 5-3 lead, the Ohio defense put clamps on the RedHawk offense the likes of which is rarely seen at the college level.

Miami missed their next 24 shot attempts. The NCAA does not keep records for consecutive missed field goals, but 24 is an unfathomable number. The RedHawks drought from the field lasted an incredible 16:34 and also included a scoring drought of 10:05 that was ended by a pair of Nike Sibande free throws. All told, the RedHawks finished the first half shooting just 10.3 percent (3-of-29) from the field and turned the ball over 10 times.

“I think if some of them some of us. The biggest thing to start the game we want to set the tone and set the rules – just be the aggressor,” Boals said. “I’ll give Jason Preston a lot of credit, he came in before the game and said ‘Hey coach, what do you think about pressing from the start?’ So we came out in our press and that really helped our intensity and set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Preston, who Boals admitted mostly comes to him with offensive observations, said the desire to press from the beginning came from what he saw from his teammates prior to tip-off.

“We just had a really aggressive and fun warm-up,” Preston said. “Everybody had lots of energy and I wanted to keep it going by pressing.”

That press kept the RedHawks off balance for the entirety of the first half, but it was not until the five-minute mark that the Bobcats began to take advantage of the historic struggles that Miami was having on the offensive end.

With five minutes to play until halftime, the Bobcats had mustered just 20 points and led by just 12 despite the RedHawks having scored just three points in the last 12:05. However, on Ohio’s next three possessions, the ‘Cats got a three-point play from Sylvester Ogbanda, a pull-up jumper from Ben Roderick and another three-pointer from Dartis to push their lead out to 20. At halftime, Ohio had pushed out to a 34-11 lead and they never looked back.

A 14-5 Bobcat run to start the second half gave Ohio what would be their largest lead, 32, of the day at 48-16. The run was spurred on by Ben Vander Plas, who scored 10 of those 14 points after being held to just three in the first half.

The 31-point margin of victory now represents the largest winning margin for the ‘Cats in the history of the rivalry that seen the Ohio win 73 times. The previous high was a 30-point win in March of 2015 when Bean Willis and Maurice N’Dour combined for 61 points in a 95-65 win.

“The win was needed…was it satisfying? I mean, a little bit. We still have eight games left in MAC play and we’re still trying to get the tables turned,” Dartis said. “Our main focus is just one game at a time.”

This was one game that could go a long way in righting a season that still has the potential to show promise for the future. A big part of that future centers around sophomore point guard Jason Preston and he made an early entry into the Ohio record books.

Preston finished the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists and became just the second Bobcat to ever record a triple-double and the first since D.J. Cooper did it in December of 2011

“It helps my team win, I mean, I get 10 assists, that means 10 different people are getting looks and getting opportunities to shoot and score,” Preston said. “Just trying to do whatever I can to help us win.”

Sitting next to him postgame, Dartis wasn’t going to let Preston be that modest about his accomplishment.

“A triple-double in college is way better than a triple-double in the NBA. You don’t really see them in college like you do the NBA,” Dartis said. “For him to be able to create and be a wizard in that craft is amazing to see.”

“He’s a really good player,” Boals added. “To be in the same breath as D.J. Cooper, who’s probably a top-5, 10, player to ever play here is pretty special.”

Outside of Preston’s triple-double, the Bobcats got big offensive games from three other players. Dartis made threes 291, 292 and 293 on the way to 11 points, Vander Plas scored 15 points in the second half to finish with 18 in the game to lead all scorers and Roderick tied his career-high, totaling 11 points while grabbing five rebounds.

With eight games remaining in conference play, the ‘Cats sit at ninth in the overall MAC standings, one spot back of hosting a first-round tournament game come March. But that is still a long way off and Ohio still has much to prove if they want to make noise in Cleveland.

That road can start on Tuesday when they host Western Michigan. The Bobcats lost their first meeting with the Broncos this season in Kalamazoo back on January 4.

“I think we just dropped one earlier this season, I don’t think they beat us,” Dartis said. “We’re definitely locked in and focused.”

The Bobcats get a chance to prove it when their game against WMU tips off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in the Convo.