Gavin Block’s final basket was his most eye-catching, but it was too late.
He drove to the rim from the right side, swung the ball in a circular motion and flipped it up past a Clemson defender with 15 seconds left in a game that was already over.
Block led all scorers with a career-high 22 points, but he couldn’t pull the shorthanded Bobcats through in an 81-76 loss to Clemson on Thursday night at the Gildan Charleston Classic in Charleston, South Carolina.
“He did everything,” coach Saul Phillips said on a post-game radio show of Block, who added 10 rebounds, an assist and a steal. “Two charges taken, too. How many guys get a double-double and take two charges? That’s pretty rare.”
Block, a 6-foot-7 junior, is the only player on the Bobcats’ roster listed as both a guard and a forward. He played the latter on Thursday while Ohio (1-1) went without forward Jason Carter for a second-straight game.
Carter, a member of last year’s all-conference freshman team, will be a fixture in Phillips’ lineup when he returns — but he spent the game seated on the bench in a walking boot.
Two other Ohio forwards, freshmen A.J. Gareri and Ben Vander Plas, have yet to play this season due to injury. As a result, there was really only one place on the floor for Block.
“He’s so versatile,” Phillips said. “We’ve got 20 feet of basketball player injured right now and we don’t get through it if it’s not for guys like Gavin Block who are willing to step into different roles.”
After a messy first half, in which the Bobcats committed 11 turnovers, they came out ice cold in the second half and shot 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) in the first 12 minutes.
But then Block led an 18-9 run, hitting a trio of 3-pointers, to bring the Bobcats within six points in the final four minutes.
Ohio trimmed the Clemson lead to four — on another Block 3-pointer — with 30 seconds to play. But the Tigers hit their free throws and defended the perimeter so Ohio couldn’t find any open looks.
The Bobcats played eight players, six of which for more than 20 minutes each. They’ll face the loser of Dayton (1-0) versus Hofstra (2-0) on Friday and then play again Sunday.
Phillips, now in his fourth year, is 2-5 in preseason road tournaments. He’s said before that his emphasis at this point in the season is to find improvement in his team and see his players moving in the right direction.
“There’s not a thing about me that likes losing,” he said. “But I know this: we grew tonight and that’s really, really important for us right now.”