Jason Preston approached coach Jeff Boals with a suggestion before Ohio renewed its rivalry against Miami on Saturday in The Convo.
“What do you think about pressing (on defense) from the start?” Preston asked his coach.
Boals went with it. He’s always encouraged players to offer suggestions about strategy. He doesn’t always implement them, but he thought the idea from Preston would ensure the Bobcats had an aggressive start to a must-win game.
“We were going to (press) eventually,” Boals said. “I thought it was huge for him to come to me and say it. So we came out in our press, and I thought that really helped our intensity and set the tone for the rest of the game.”
That “tone” was something the Bobcats haven’t seen all season in their 77-46 win over the RedHawks. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and sealed Ohio’s ninth consecutive home win over its Mid-American Conference East Division rival.
Ohio’s aggressive defense forced the RedHawks to miss 24 consecutive shots in the first half. Miami missed layups, short field goals and 3-pointers. Dalonte Brown even whiffed on a dunk attempt.
The RedHawks went a full 17 minutes without making a field goal, and the Bobcats went into halftime with a 34-11 lead.
A bulk of the credit goes to Preston, who also added his name to an exclusive Ohio list.
The sophomore scored 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and became the second player in Bobcats history to achieve a triple-double. He was the first Ohio player to hit the achievement since D.J. Cooper in 2011.
For Miami, it was bad basketball. For Ohio, it was superb defensive play that helped open the floodgates for a comfortable conference win.
Preston’s scoring achievement was a cherry on top. His suggestion is what took the Bobcats to another level.
“J.P. got us started,” redshirt senior guard Jordan Dartis said. “He was definitely leading us today. When he’s leading us like that, we’re definitely hard to beat. We just kept throwing punches tonight.”
In his postgame press conference, Preston seemed more interested in discussing Ohio’s team performance rather than his triple-double. That’s the approach the point guard has maintained throughout a breakout season, and a milestone achievement against Ohio’s top rival didn’t change it.
“(The triple-double) is really nice,” Preston said. “But most importantly, we got the win. To come here and beat our rival by 30 points, that’s what was most important.”
Ohio is in the midst of a disappointing season. The Bobcats have dealt with tight losses since conference play and still sit near the bottom of the MAC standings.
Preston, however, has always been a bright spot. He’s been among the nation’s assist leaders all season — he’s currently fourth among all players — and has shined among a roster full of inexperience and youth.
His stat line Saturday against Miami will stick out most and be one of the high points in a season full of predictable lows as Boals attempts to restructure the program.
But Preston’s suggestion is what Boals might remember most. That’s the culture Boals is hoping to establish, and Saturday was one of the best examples of how it can translate to a win.
“I think those guys see the game differently than we do,” Boals said. “Obviously, he’s comfortable enough to do that. I think it’s awesome that he does that, and I give him a lot of credit.”