Bobcats face Broncos in curtain call for Preston

What can Jason Preston do for an encore?

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals wouldn’t put it past Preston, OU’s floppy-topped junior point guard, to make more program history and notch a second-consecutive triple-double when the Bobcats host Western Michigan on Tuesday night inside the Convocation Center. The tip-off time is set for 6 p.m.

Ohio freshman Sam Towns (center) celebrates in the Bobcats’ bench area in the Convo during a game earlier this season. Photo by Jason Arkley

“It’s crazy when you think about it,” Boals said Monday. “Like the other night, he probably could’ve ended up with 15, 16 (assists). He’s more than capable of doing that – I don’t want to say nightly – but he has a huge impact for us.

“It feels like he should have five or six (triple doubles) by now right?”

Preston has two career triple-doubles, and two of the three in program history, after garnering 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Ohio’s home win over Ball State on Saturday. For the season, Preston is averaging 17.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game, while shooting 53.5 percent over all and 40 percent from 3-point range.

For his career, it’s true Preston has come close to additional triple-doubles. In 63 games, Preston has hit double figures in scoring 38 times – with 14 games of 20 or more. He’s also notched 12 double-doubles in addition to the triple-doubles; Preston has notched double-doubles eight times in points and assists, and four times doubled up with points and rebounds.

Preston has never been one assist away from a triple double, or one rebound away. His two ‘near misses’ came last season. Preston had 20 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds at home against Detroit Mercy on Nov. 3, 2019, and on Feb. 15, 2020 at Kent State he logged 20 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds as well.

More than numbers, Boals appreciated the aggressive nature of Preston’s offensive game on Saturday. Preston took 16 shots, which is second only to his 23 attempts in the third game of the season at Illinois.

“Attack-mode Jason Preston is really good for Ohio University,” Boals said.

Missing pieces

Ohio (8-6, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) will be without at least two players for Tuesday’s bout with the Broncos (2-9, 1-5 MAC).

Sophomore center Nolan Foster remains out of action with a lower leg injury, and it appears backup big Rifen Miguel will be out again due to COVID-19 protocols. Miguel played three minutes on Jan. 16 against Kent State, but was not in the bench area for Saturday’s game against Ball State.

Boals confirmed Monday that Miguel’s absence was due to contact tracing issues. Ohio’s policy states individuals caught up in contact tracing with known COVID-19 carriers will need to serve a 10-day quarantine period before resuming team activities. Boals did not say when Miguel’s quarantine period began, but even if it started the day after the Kent State appearance his ‘clock’ would not have run out before Tuesday’s game.

Dealing with COVID-19 issues is familiar territory for WMU, which had six different game dates postponed or canceled this season. The Broncos have had three different MAC games already pushed back, and – due to issues with the Huskies – already know their game Feb. 2 with NIU will not take place as scheduled.

WMU had games on Jan. 5 and 6 postponed, played games for a week, then had conference games on Jan. 16 and 19 postponed.

The Broncos returned from that hiatus on Saturday with a 79-68 loss to visiting Akron. The Broncos led at the half, and had 10 different players – the entire active roster – score. But, first-year head coach Clayton Bates had to play without two of his top three leading scorers. Both sophomore guard B Artis White (14.8 points per game) and sophomore forward Titus Wright (9.9) missed the matchup with the Zips.

Instead, senior forward Greg Lee had a career-high 22 points in the losing effort.

Bobcat bits

Ohio begins the week tied for seventh in the overall MAC standings, but trails Toledo (13-4, 8-1) by 3.5 games for the top spot. …The Bobcats’ offense continues to grade well as Ohio ranks second in the MAC in KenPom.com’s offensive efficiency ratings (109.2), behind Toledo (113.9). OU leads the MAC in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, TO margin, and field goal shooting percentage. …Ohio leads the all-time series against WMU 69-66, and holds an edge of 48-19 in games at the Convo. But the series has been deadlocked over the last four meetings (2-2) and over the last 10 years (8-8). …The Broncos were picked to finish last in the preseason MAC balloting, and haven’t won since a 76-61 win over visiting Central Michigan on Dec. 18, 2020.

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