ATHENS, Ohio -- Behind a team-high 20 points from sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio), a career-high 18 points from redshirt freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) and a double-double performance from senior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio), the Ohio men's basketball team (4-2) defeated the Iona Gaels (2-4), 89-65, on Tuesday (Nov. 27) inside the Convocation Center.
"The focus we had in terms of playing to our strengths tonight offensively really showed," said fifth-year head coach Saul Phillips, "Twenty-three assists and we had three different guys with five assists, and they were really packing it in for a while. Ironically, this is this first team this season that's done that. But, we were stubborn in playing to our strengths and not letting people take us out of it. Then, what do you know, thirty-three percent and it felt like it was raining threes. I've said it all along, this team doesn't have to be incredible at shooting threes, they just have to be stubborn to their identity and then knock down the open ones when they get comfortable. When things are going well offensively, and the ball is going through the hoop, it tends to take a little of the pressure off."
The victory over Iona is the first in program history for the Bobcats, who had fallen to the Gaels the previous two seasons.
Carter finished 8-of-15 for 20 points and added six rebounds and two assists in his 26 minutes of work. Vander Plas finished with his first career double-double on 18 points and a game and career-high 11 rebounds in 25 minutes, while Taylor finished his double-double performance with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while tallying two blocks in 26 minutes. Sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) also added 18 points going 8-of-18 from the field, adding seven rebounds, a game-high five assists and two steals in 32 minutes of play. Senior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) added 13 points, going 3-of-4 from behind the arc, and chipped in a game-high five assists in 26 minutes of play for Ohio.
"We all have the confidence to just shoot when we're open and to take good shots," Vander Plas said. "Us getting to the rim was effective, so we stuck with that."
Both Iona and Ohio struggled from the field through the first five minutes of the game, with Ohio going 2-of-9 and Iona, with a small 10-5 advantage, going 4-of-9. However, after the media timeout, Vander Plas entered the game and tallied a quick eight points going 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from behind the arc to give Ohio momentum and a 15-13 lead.
Iona, hot from the 3-point line, going 6-of-12 for a field goal percentage of 46 percent, went on a 9-0 run to gain a 27-24 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half. With seven total lead changes, Ohio went ahead 36-29 three quarters of the way through the first half and capitalized on its size, doubling Iona on points scored in the paint, 22-10. Iona answered though, tallying two more field goals from behind the arc to bring them within three, 38-35, with under two minutes to play in the half. Vander Plas tallied another three-point field goal with under a minute left to give Ohio a 43-37 halftime lead and complete his 13-point first half performance.
At the end of the first half, Ohio outshot Iona from the field with a 45 percent (18-of-40) field goal percentage compared to a 39 percent (14-of-36) field goal percentage and compiled 24 total rebounds compared to the Gaels 21 total rebounds. Iona, just ahead of Ohio, tallied 12 assists and five steals compared to the Bobcats 11 assists and four steals for the half. Ohio was able to force 11 turnovers resulting in 13 total points compared to seven forced turnovers for Iona resulting in only five points. Ohio scored 26 points in the paint compared to 12 for the Gaels.
The first four minutes of the second half resembled that of the first half with Ohio shooting 2-of-6 from the field for four points and a 33.3 percent field goal percentage, and Iona going 1-of-5 for three points and a 20.0 percent field goal percentage. Ohio forced Iona to a timeout after a 6-0 run put the Bobcats ahead 51-40 with under fifteen minutes to play.
Block racked another three-point basket to give Ohio its largest lead of the game, a 58-45 advantage, with 11 minutes left in the half. Block registered his second three-point basket of the half after a Vander Plas bucket and a three-point basket for Carter that stretched the lead to 67-45 with under 10 minutes to play. Block, Kirk and Carter together compiled an Ohio 11-0 run with under four minutes left to play for an 84-52 lead over Iona. Ohio would go on to outscore Iona 46-28 in the second half to clinch the victory.
Ohio finished the game with a 48 percent (35-of-73) field goal percentage and 53 total rebounds compared to Iona who finished the game with a 32 percent (21-of-65) field goal percentage and 39 total rebounds. Ohio registered 23 total assists to Ionas' 16 and scored 50 points in the paint compared to 24 points in the paint for the Gaels. Ohio also recorded 36 points off the bench compared to Ionas' 15 bench points.
Tajuan Agee tallied a game-high 23 points over 29 minutes to lead Iona in scoring and added eight rebounds. Rickey McGill added 16 points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists in 34 minutes of play for Iona, while E.J. Crawford chipped in four points and a team-high nine rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
"Defensively, I can't say enough about the job that we did, particularly in the second half," Phillips said. "Iona is a good team, from a good conference, with good players. We did a very good job of keeping an eye on them. When you have a guard like McGill, you're going to win plenty of games. We forced Crawford into a tough night too. He's an outstanding player, as is Gist. We took three offensive players out of the game, and I'm proud of our guys for that."
The Bobcats return to action on Saturday, Dec. 1 as the Bobcats host C-USA rival Marshall. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. inside the Convocation Center and will follow the Women's game against Cleveland State that is set for 1 p.m.