OXFORD — Ben Vander Plas thinks Ohio found the consistency it’s been searching for.
The redshirt senior has noticed a trend during the Bobcats’ recent games. Since they’ve entered the meat of their Mid-American Conference schedule, the Bobcats have played a delicate balancing act to keep their winning streak alive. Their games follow a similar pattern: the Bobcats storm into a confident lead, relax after halftime and let their opponents play catch up.
But after an 86-63 smackdown of Miami inside Millett Hall on Tuesday night, Ohio looked like a team far removed from its previous conference wins. The slack it often gifted opponents after halftime was nonexistent. After it snagged the lead following a brief 7-0 run early in the game, Ohio proceeded to beat Miami into the dirt.
“I think we were struggling for a while to go into the second half and kind of extend games a little bit,“ Vander Plas said. “We always hold the lead but let them back into it a little bit. So, we were finally able to string together 40 minutes and keep that separation the whole second half. That was big for us.”
Vander Plas checked out of Millett Hall with 23 points, a season high for himself. The forward has been shaking off a cold snap in his shooting over the past month, and he found another hot spot Tuesday. In the first half alone, Vander Plas scored 20 points and was 8-of-11 from the field.
He wasn’t alone. The Bobcats as a whole were nailing shots with ease. They finished the night shooting 50.9% from the field. Five of the 12 Bobcats who got time on the floor sank at least half of their field goal attempts.
Vander Plas can’t pinpoint what’s spurred Ohio’s best night for shooting in over a month. He chalks it up to an itch to be back on the court. Ohio’s previous game against Central Michigan had been postponed due to COVID-19 issues, and it was caught in an unexpected pause in its schedule.
“I think part of it is we had that little break. We missed the game with Central (Michigan),“ Vander Plas said. “So, we were just excited to get back on the court. But, obviously, when you play against your rival, a little bit more energy comes with it.”
Both Vander Plas and the Bobcats’ efficiency beyond the arc helped to widen the gap. Part and parcel of Ohio’s strategy this year has been its ability to knock down 3-pointers. The RedHawks boasted a better 3-point percentage ahead of Tuesday night, but the Bobcats ignored that fact. They shot with gusto and kept the RedHawks from mounting a response. By the end of the night, the Bobcats had drained 13 3-pointers, their most in a game since their season opener.
The Bobcats made eight 3-pointers in the first half. The RedHawks had eight 3-pointers all game.
“We’ve got multiple guys who can make them,“ Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “Our biggest thing is playing inside-out. We always to play either driving, collapsing or kicking. A lot of them we got in transition where we got some kickouts, and I think our guys did a great job making the extra pass.”
The Bobcats have little reason to complain after Tuesday. They played one of their sharpest games of the season and reminded the MAC why they are the team to beat. The Bobcats played like a team on a nine-game winning streak is expected to play against a middling conference opponent.
Ohio sought out consistency, and it found it in Millett Hall.