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Ohio University guard Mark Sears (#1) taking a free throw against Belmont University at the Convocation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

Men's Basketball: Ohio trumps USC Upstate behind Mark Sears' career-high 33 points

Mark Sears isn’t fazed by his career-high day against USC Upstate.

The sophomore is used to setting new personal bests. In the Bobcats’ 85-70 win over the Spartans, Sears finished with 33 points, beating out his previous career best of 27 points from Ohio’s season opener. He’s scored in double digits in every game this season and has been Ohio’s go-to player when scoring.

Despite his offensive production, Sears doesn’t hold himself up to a higher standard than the rest of the Bobcats. He knows what he can do, and he plays with that knowledge tucked away. The guard doesn’t care what he scores as long as Ohio ends the day on top.

“It’s not a standard,“ Sears said. “I just go out there, play ball and my teammates trust me. At the end of the day it’s all about the win.”

The point guard shot one of his best games of the season Tuesday. He ended the afternoon shooting 68.8% from the field and was perfect on free throws. During a 13-5 run by Ohio in the closing minutes of the game, Sears scored 11 of those points. 

On a day where three other Bobcats scored in double figures — the sixth time this season four or more players have scored that much — Sears soared above the rest. Ohio’s next three highest scorers combined for 35 points, just two points above Sears’ standalone total.

“When you have multiple guys who can score, and he's got the ball in his hands coming off the pick and roll,“ Ohio coach Jeff Boals said of Sears. “He can shoot the three, he can drive in a lane and finish at the rim, mid-range is really good ... he just scores in a multitude of ways, and he's not one dimensional.”

Had it not been for Sears, the Bobcats’ winning streak at home may have come to an end. 

For seven-and-a-half minutes through the middle of the game, Ohio was 3-of-14 when shooting from the field. In that same span, USC Upstate went 6-of-9. What had been a 13-point lead for Ohio had been trimmed down to four.

The Bobcats are familiar with entering halftime on a shooting skid. Their wins over St. Francis and Marshall were characterized by stretches of inaccurate shooting that cut their big leads down to size. Tuesday rang the same bell. The Bobcats recovered but had to wrestle the lead back from the Spartans twice. Boals said Ohio can’t afford stints of missed shots once Mid-American Conference play begins.

“I gotta figure that out because it’s been multiple games where we haven’t ended the half the way we need to,“ Boals said. “We very easily could’ve been up 16-18 (points), but we’re up seven. That's a whole momentum shift going into halftime. Even coming out in the second half, I thought we were lethargic to start.”

But Sears broke Ohio out of its slump. After the guard sank a two-point jumper early in the second half, Ohio knocked down 13 of its next 23 field goal attempts. Five of those field goals belonged to Sears, who scored 20 points in the second half. None of USC Upstate’s players scored 20 points all game.

The Bobcats have wiped their nonconference slate clean. They’ve won all seven of their games in The Convo thus far, and their first MAC matchup will also be at home. Sears above all else, is confident ahead of conference play. When Ohio plays in The Convo, Sears averages 22 points per game.

Sears, however, just wants to keep Ohio winning. If he breaks his career best along the way, it doesn’t matter much. He’s accustomed to setting personal records


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