No. 13 seed Ohio ends Virginia’s repeat hopes with stunning first-round upset of reigning champs

Virginia’s reign as national champion got a one-year extension thanks to COVID-19.

But its title defense didn’t last long once NCAA tournament play resumed. No. 13 seed Ohio stunned the fourth-seeded Cavaliers on Saturday, sending Virginia home without a win in this year’s NCAA tournament. 

The Bobcats did it without a big scoring night from star guard Jason Preston as junior forward Ben Vander Plas paced Ohio in the 62-58 upset.

Bobcats ride big run, hold off late Cavs rally to win

After taking a 28-27 edge into halftime, Virginia looked ready to pull away when it took a 38-31 lead near the midpoint of the second half. But Ohio surged with a 16-2 run to take a 47-40 lead that it would not relinquish.

The Cavaliers didn’t go down without a fight. Virginia clawed back from a 58-51 deficit with 25 seconds remaining with a steal and a pair of 3-pointers while cutting Ohio’s lead to 60-58. But Ohio was unfazed at the free throw line as Preston, Mark Sears and Lunden McDay combined to go 6 for 6 at the stripe in the game’s final 44 seconds, ensuring that Virginia couldn’t complete the late rally. The Bobcats hit 13 of 14 free throw attempts for the game. 

Ben Roderick #3 and Jason Preston #0 have plenty of reason to smile after knockout off the regining champs. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Vander Plas led the Ohio scoring effort with 17 points along with five rebounds and four assists. All-MAC guard Preston did plenty of damage in the box score with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. 

The game was played at Virginia’s, slow, low-scoring pace, as head coach Tony Bennet’s team typically ensures. Ohio fell almost 19 points short of its season-long scoring average of 80.9 points. But it bested Virginia at its own game.

The Bobcats limited the Cavaliers to 35 percent shooting from the field and an 8-of-31 (25.8 percent) effort from 3-point distance. It was enough to overcome their own 42 percent performance from the field. 

The win sets up a second-round matchup with No. 5 seed Creighton on Sunday as Ohio will look to crash the Sweet 16 from the 13 seed. 

For Virginia, it’s a disappointing end to its championship run and another early for the ACC, which also lost North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Clemson in the tournament’s first round. 

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