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

Jason Owens
·2-min read

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.

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA - MARCH 20: Ben Roderick #3 and Jason Preston #0 of the Ohio Bobcats react during the game against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Assembly Hall on March 20, 2021 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Ben Roderick, left, and Jason Preston have plenty of reason to smile after knocking out 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.

Ohio beats Virginia at its own game

The game was played at Virginia's, slow, low-scoring pace, as head coach Tony Bennett'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% shooting from the field and an 8-of-31 (25.8%) effort from 3-point distance. It was enough to overcome their own 42% effort performance from the field — and plenty of reason to celebrate.

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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 exit for the ACC, which also lost North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Clemson in the tournament's first round.

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