[Joe Collins | WOUB]

Carter’s big night leads Ohio Men’s Basketball to MAC Tournament Semifinals

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOUB) — Three wins in three days. That is what Ohio needs to do to get its second straight MAC Tournament title.  It is easier said than done, though.

After dropping four of their last five regular season games leading to the MAC tournament, Ohio (24-8) got a big boost Thursday from Redshirt Fifth Year Forward Jason Carter and took care of business against Ball State (14-17) with a 77-67 win.  The Bobcats are heading to the MAC semifinals for the second year in a row.

“We got a new lease on life,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “This is why you play. This is March.”

Ohio's Jason Carter (30) throws down a dunk in the Bobcats' MAC quarterfinal matchup against Ball State on March 10, 2022 in Cleveland.
Ohio’s Jason Carter (30) throws down a dunk in the second half of the Bobcats’ MAC quarterfinal matchup against Ball State on March 10, 2022 in Cleveland.

Carter had the best postseason game of his long collegiate career. He finished with 20 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.  Carter last played in Cleveland back in 2017, which was his freshman season.  The Bobcats missed the tournament the next two seasons then Carter played two years at Xavier.  It was a long time coming for Carter to have a night like he did.

“(Carter) came back for a reason and that was to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Boals said. “Tonight he played like it.”

Carter was one of four Bobcats to reach double figures.

All-MAC first teamer Mark Sears led the Bobcats with 24 points. Ben Vander Plas and Miles Brown also tallied 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Things got off to a rough start for Ohio, though.  Ball State jumped ahead to a six-point lead eight minutes into the game.  The Bobcats were paced by 13 points and six rebounds from Sears to hold a slim 36-35 lead at the half.

“A major thing coming into the game was rebounding,” Sears said. “You got to get a little lucky but you got to crash hard every time and that was a big, big part of what we did.”

Ohio came out hot in the second half — opening up on a 10-0 run.

The Cardinals countered to bring things within four points at 55-52 with just over nine minutes.  Then the Bobcats put Ball State’s hopes of an upset to bed.

Ohio embarked on a 17-0 run to blow things open to a 21-point ballgame.  The scoring spurt was highlighted by nine consecutive points from Mark Sears, including back-to-back three pointers.

“All the credit to Ohio,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “They got three guys out there that can really play.”

Ohio is now two wins away from punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.  However, a tough opponent stands in its way Friday.

Kent State is on a 13-game win streak with its most recent victory coming over Miami (OH) in Thursday’s quarterfinal, 85-75.

The Golden Flashes and Bobcats split the regular season.  Ohio took the first matchup, 80-72, in Athens but was dismantled by KSU in late February, 75-52.  The rubber match inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse is for a spot in Saturday’s MAC championship game.

“I told them ‘You belong here. You earned it. Now you get to go out and prove it,'” Boals said.

Tip-off between Ohio and Kent State is set for approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday in Cleveland.