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Williams' late basket helps Buffalo hold off Ohio

Vander Plas, Preston combine for 55 points in 76-73 loss


AMHERST, N.Y. – Jeenathan Williams scored a go-ahead basket inside with 15 seconds left, and Buffalo overcame 55 combined points from Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston in a 76-73 victory on Tuesday night at UB Arena.

Vander Plas, who scored a career-high 28 points, put the Bobcats ahead with a layup on a long bounce feed inside from Preston. He initially fumbled the ball but gathered it deep under the basket and was able to convert open after a defensive overplay.

Ohio (9-8, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) had two chances after Williams’ go-ahead basket. Preston’s drive to the basket was blocked out of bounds by Josh Mballa with less than five seconds left, and the inbound pass that followed was stolen away by Jayvon Graves and knocked out of bounds with two seconds to go. Graves was fouled on Buffalo’s inbound with just 0.3 seconds left and made both free throws.

"We played hard, but we didn't play smart at times," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "Games like this, we tell our guys all these games are going to be close, and the value of every possession. We turned it over at the end, and that's on me, but that didn't lose the game for us. You could look through the first play of the game, to the next, to the third play and find one play that's a difference maker."

Vander Plas finished was 11-of-20 shooting, including a 4-of-6 effort from long range, and added five rebounds, while Preston tied his career high of 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists. Sylvester Ogbonda added 12 points and six boards.

But those three made up but six points scored by the Bobcats – Lunden McDay had those – with Jordan Dartis being held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting, all from long range, before leaving with an ankle injury late in the second half.

Williams was big for the Bulls, scoring 26 points with seven rebounds. Antwain Johnson had 18 points, Davonta Jordan finished with 12 points, and Mballa and Graves had nine points each, with Mballa adding nine rebounds and four blocks.

"The disappointing thing is, we let another guy get a career high," Boals said. "I think that's five of our last maybe eight games somebody's gotten a career high on us. The last two games, people have just driven us and scored."

The Bobcats led the entire first half, going up by as much as eight before taking a 31-26 advantage into the second half. Johnson’s 3-pointer with 16:27 to go gave Buffalo its first lead of the game 38-37.

The biggest lead for either team after that was Ohio taking a 64-59 edge with 6:46 to go on a Preston layup, but Williams answered with a three-point play and then added a layup to tie it.

After Buffalo (11-6, 2-2 MAC) went up three, Preston tied it with 3:14 remaining with a shot from deep, only for Williams to answer for the Bulls on the next possession. Preston added a layup and then Ogbonda hit two free throws following an offensive rebound to put Ohio up 71-70 at the 1:52 mark. Jordan scored for Buffalo before Vander Plas’ final basket for the Bobcats.

Free throws were a big difference. Buffalo, which came in as one of the worst teams in the MAC at the foul line, went 11 of 14, while Ohio was 9 of 14.

"A 50-some percent free throw shooter (Williams) coming in makes all five," Boals said. "We missed some front ends. I thought we missed some layups that were right point-blank there. You've got to make those and extend the lead and not put yourself in that situation at the end."

Ohio takes on Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Saturday at The Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan.






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