[Bryce Tinson | WOUB]

Multiple Bobcats shine in double-digit victory over Robert Morris

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) –  The Ohio Bobcats remain undefeated to start their 2021-22 campaign, with a brilliant display from many different players that gave the Bobcats the edge over the Robert Morris Colonials.

Ohio came into Monday night’s game in The Convo on a two-game winning streak to start the year with wins against quality mid-major conference opponents Belmont and Cleveland State.

The visiting Colonials were seeking their first win of the season after being blown out by 40 points against Kentucky. This game would become a good litmus test for the status of the Bobcats, and the team passed that test with flying colors.

Ohio's Lunden McDay (15), Jason Carter (30) and Ben Vander Plas (5) huddle following a basket in Ohio's game against Robert Morris.
Ohio’s Lunden McDay (15), Jason Carter (30) and Ben Vander Plas (5) huddle following a basket in Ohio’s game against Robert Morris on Nov. 15, 2021.

Five Bobcats finished in double figures, including Mark Sears, who quelled Robert Morris’ early push by contributing to Ohio’s first eight points. Sears also excelled defensively, picking up two quick steals to start the game and constantly having Robert Morris’ guards flustered throughout the contest.

Sears finished the game with 16 points and three steals, and has averaged 19 points through his first three games this season, leaving many impressed on how he filled the role of Ohio’s starting point guard.

“There’s not too many schools at our level that lose a player to the NBA and then have someone sitting right there. We are very lucky to have him,” said Ohio men’s basketball head coach Jeff Boals. “I got a text from a couple NBA guys about him. He’ll be a big part of what we do.”

It was a tight ballgame for the majority of the first half, with the Bobcats showing some inconsistencies in rim protection and aso having a significant drop off with the second unit.

Ohio managed to create some separation from the Colonials late in the half by switching to a 1-3-1 zone on defense and on their full court press. This adjustment got the Bobcats on a run that sent them into the locker room up 39-31 at the half.

Ohio's Ben Roderick works down in the paint in the Bobcats' game against Robert Morris on Nov. 15, 2021.
Ohio’s Ben Roderick works down in the paint in the Bobcats’ game against Robert Morris on Nov. 15, 2021.

Ben Roderick has stumbled out of the gate this season, with the normally deadly three-point shooting marksman shooting 25% from beyond the arc in his first two games. His play in the first half against Robert Morris did not get much better as he shot 0-4 from the field.

In the second half, Roderick flipped a switch and scored Ohio’s first 12 points of the period, and finished the game with 14 points while going 7-7 from the free throw line.

“I think it was the shoes, I changed my shoes at halftime and started playing better,” said Ben Roderick on his performance. “My shots weren’t falling, [and] I wasn’t going to let that affect my game.”

Robert Morris’ three-point shooting kept them within striking distance, but then Ben Vander Plas made his impact felt to keep the Bobcats out of reach. He scored a double-double, with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals.

On top of his two steals, he wreaked havoc alongside Mark Sears on double team traps leading to more turnovers. His services were required nearly the entire night to maintain Ohio’s lead, playing all but two minutes in the game.

Asserting his dominance in the paint alongside Vander Plas was Jason Carter. The fifth-year senior forward shot 50% from the field, logging another double-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. His signature fadeaway mid-range jumper off the postup never failed him, as he has become a consistent bright spot for the Bobcats.

Carter had previously transferred from Ohio to Xavier, but returned to Athens for his final season of eligibility. His teammates have relished the opportunity to be teammates again both on and off the court.

“He’s a good friend of mine and my roommate freshman year. It’s been a blast to have him back,” said Ohio senior forward Ben Vander Plas. “He can do so many things on the court, but the one thing I have over Jason is my hair. Jason doesn’t have the flow like I do.”

With production coming from every angle, Robert Morris could not keep up with the Bobcats as Ohio improved to 3-0 on the season, winning 85-71.

The team faces a big test on Friday, when they travel to take on no. 13 Kentucky in Lexington. Jeff Boals is very appreciative of having the opportunity to play against a talented opponent.

“We called every ACC team, every BIG Ten team, every SEC team, the two high-majors that agreed to play us were Kentucky and LSU,” said coach Boals. “Kentucky only agreed to play us after they found out Jason Preston was leaving and Dwight Wilson was hurt.”

Boals himself also had vivid memories of facing the Wildcats as a player.

“Don’t start Jeff Boals at the three. Robert Burns stole the ball from me on three straight possessions, so it’s a good thing I’m not playing.”

With Ohio having already received a vote to be in the AP poll top 25 college basketball teams in the nation, a win versus Kentucky could do wonders for their postseason aspirations regardless of the results of the MAC tournament.

Tipoff at Rupp Arena is set for Friday at 7 p.m.