Ohio Men’s Basketball: Duo of Vander Plas, Preston shine once again in Upset of Virginia< < Back to
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WOUB) — Court Street back in Athens is in a frenzy after the Ohio Bobcats, the 2021 MAC Champions and 13 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, continued their improbable season after knocking off the four seed, the Virginia Cavaliers 62-58, who came into the game as the defending National Champions.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of support on social media and things like that from our students over at OU, a lot of fans back in Athens,” Ohio redshirt junior Ben Vander Plas said. “It’s funny. Ben Roderick came up to me after the game, saying Court Street is going crazy right now. Excited to look at some videos of that. It’s really cool we have that much support back home for us.”
The leading scorer in the game and someone who was instrumental in the Bobcats comeback win, especially in the second half, was Vander Plas. The RS Junior Guard scored a game high 17 points and shot seven of 15 from the field. He did shoot three of nine from beyond the arc, but it’s when he hit those threes that mattered the most.
After a rough start to the game shooting the ball, Vander Plas stepped up with a big time three-pointer right before the first half ended to send the Bobcats to the locker room only down by one, 28-27. Vander Plas finished with seven in the first half.
The Bobcats struggled for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Virginia was leading 38-31, and Ohio looked stifled as far as getting open chances, as the Cavaliers made the Cats waste a lot of time looking for a play every possession. The Bobcats began to creep back into the game, cutting the deficit to 40-39 around 8 minutes to go. On the Next Ohio possession, Vander Plas got to his favorite spot on the court, the left wing, and launched a deep three to give the Bobcats a 42-40 lead, their first since it was 3-0. The Bobcats got it right back, and with 7 minutes on the clock, Vander Plas once again knocked down a triple from deep in the left corner.
“Yeah, that left wing,” Vander Plas pointed out. “I like that spot coming off of pick and pops, things like that, right in front of the bench. I guess they were just falling from there today.”
This was a personal game for Vander Plas as his father, Dean, played at Green Bay College for head coach Dick Bennett, the father of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett.
“Yeah, obviously Coach Bennett played with my dad in college,” Vander Plas said. “The Bennett family is where my name comes from. That family has meant a lot to my family over the years. When we got matched up, I was really excited to play against him. He’s a great coach. Yeah, I got to talk to him for a little bit after the game. He asked where my dad was sitting. I pointed up there. Yeah, that was a pretty cool moment with coach Bennett.”
For the other Ohio star, Jason Preston, this was a game that Preston would be able to further cement his Ohio legacy and show the nation why he was getting so much praise. Preston finished with just 11 points on four of seven shooting, but otherwise had another vintage Jason Preston performance, as he finished with 13 rebounds and eight assists. He was once again the floor general for the Bobcats, creating most of the plays that allowed Ohio to score 31 points over the final 10 minutes of the game.
“I’m not going to lie. Any time we play a basketball game, doesn’t matter who it is, I think Jason Preston is the best player on the court,” Vander Plas said. “I’ve seen him do things that I haven’t seen anybody else do. The way he plays the game, it’s so phenomenal. Yeah, any time we step on the court, I think we got the best player on the court out there.”
Just like when he scored 31 points against Illinois earlier in the season, a team that is a one seed in this tournament, Preston did not back down from the spotlight and rather embraced it.
“I told him this is where stars are born, legacies are made,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “Give [Virginia] a lot of credit. [Kihei] Clark is a very good defender. But Jason in the second half was able to get around a couple of those, had some huge rebounds. What did he have, 13 rebounds, 11 points, 8 assist, 3 turnovers? Just a phenomenal effort. He’s the heart and soul of our team. The world saw today who he is and what he’s able to do. Just really proud of him.”
The second leading scorer for the Bobcats today was Ben Roderick, who arguably had the most important play of the game. With nearly a minute left in the game and up 53-49, Roderick took a step back three from the right corner and rattled it in as the Bobcats fans in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall roared as the Bobcats got near to pulling off the upset. Roderick finished with 15 points and knocked down three from long range.
However, one thing that doesn’t get talked about enough when looking at this game was the play of Lunden McDay. He’d finish with eight points in the game but with Ohio clinging to a 60-58 victory with five seconds left in the game, McDay went to the line and knocked down both free throws to ice the game and end the Reigning champ’s season.
“If you look at our roster, five guys averaging double figures, a sixth guy averages nine points a game,” Boals said. “We got great balance. Certain guys, different guys step up on different nights. I think you can tell by watching them play, they love each other, the bench is awesome, the energy level is awesome. They play for each other. So, I think with a guy like Jason Preston, Ben Vander Plas, anything can happen in a 40-minute game.”
The Bobcats will need to continue to play as a team as with this win, the Bobcats now move on to the Round of 32 in the West Region where they will take on the five seed, the Creighton Blue Jays. The game is scheduled for Monday.