Ben Roderick said it was shoes. Jeff Boals said it was shoes.
They were joking, of course. But when Roderick caught fire in the second and scored 12 straight points it was another sign of the versatility and balance the Bobcats can bring to bear this season — and not an indictment on first-half footwear.
Ohio took turns featuring different offensive threats throughout, and bumped off visiting Robert Morris 85-71 inside the Convo on Monday night in the team’s first matchup as part of the Kentucky Classic. The Bobcats (3-0) had five players hit double figures as Ohio snapped a four-game losing skid against the Colonials. OU beat Robert Morris for the first time since 1993.
“Did a good job sharing the basketball like they always have. Multiple guys stepped up and made contributions,” said Ohio head coach Jeff Boals, whose only real pain point so far this season has been his busted ribs.
“We moved the ball really well. We have a very unselfish bunch.”
Forward Jason Carter led Ohio with 18 and 11 rebounds for his second double-double in three games. Front-court partner Ben Vander Plas added 17 points and 11 rebounds as OU held Robert Morris to just five offensive rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Mark Sears kept up his torrid pace with 16 points on just 12 shots. Lunden McDay had a season-high 11 points off the bench.
And then there was Roderick, who was sitting on goose egg after shooting 0-for-4 in the first half. The junior left-hander responded with Ohio’s first 12 points of the second half; part of 14 after the break.
“My shot wasn’t falling but I’m not going to let that affect other parts of my game,” Roderick said, after mentioning changing his shoes at halftime. “Being able to hit some free throws and some layups was definitely a confidence booster.”
With the way Ohio has started the season, it was simply Roderick’s turn to make an impact. The Bobcats got 18 bench points, and all nine players who saw the court made at least one shot from the field. Ohio had just 13 assists, but that didn’t reflect the extra passes the Bobcats continually issued throughout.
“With the team we have now, everybody is okay with that,” Vander Plas said. “Really unselfish group.
“No egos to deal with, no selfishness floating around. Everybody is just playing for the team,” he continued. “It’s not something you see a ton and it’s been really special for us.”
Robert Morris has now lost seven straight games dating back to last season. Kahliel Spear had a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds for the Colonials, while Jaron Williams added 19 points off the bench and Justin Winston chipped in 11.
RMU led half a dozen times in the opening minutes, but took its last lead at 15-12 midway through the first half on Winston’s 3-pointer. Two minutes later, Ohio snapped a 15-15 tie with the first of consecutive Vander Plas 3-pointers.
Leading 23-22, Ohio landed a 10-2 run to create a first-half cushion. Carter knocked in a jumper from the lane, Sears took the express lane to a layup, and both Miles Brown and Vander Plas scored on offensive rebounds. Carter’s tip-in slam off another miss made it 33-24 with 3:48 left in the half.
The lead never dipped below eight points the rest of the way. After Roderick’s barrage to open the second half — fueled by seven free throws — Carter hit a nifty turnaround jumper and Vander Plas got a dunk followup of his own for a 57-43 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining.
“Obviously (Carter) had a really good night in the post tonight. Looked like Dirk out there, it was awesome,” Vander Plas said.
Robert Morris cut the deficit to nine with eight minutes to go, Ohio landed an 11-4 spurt — with four different players providing makes — to forge a 75-59 lead with 5:40 left after McDay’s 3-pointer.
Ohio wrapped it up from there, and can now start prepping for No. 13 Kentucky (1-1) on Friday. The Bobcats will make the trip to Rupp Arena for the biggest game of their non-conference season.
“I think we’re going to enjoy this win tonight first,” Roderick said. “We’re going to go in and have a lot of fun because it’s going to be a great crowd and we’re excited for it.”
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