COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With the return of one of its stars, Ohio lost another.
In the Bobcats’ 87-62 loss to Maryland on Thursday night, forward Jason Carter came back from a month-long absence caused by a lower right leg injury. He walked off the court pain-free — a positive sign in an otherwise sour game.
But guard Jordan Dartis, the team’s 3-point sharpshooter and third-leading scorer, needed help hobbling off to the locker room with his right ankle elevated.
“Doesn’t look good,” coach Saul Phillips said of Dartis’ ankle. “He’s not putting any weight on it. That’s what I can tell you.”
Before Dartis left, the emphasis was on Carter. Ohio trailed by double-digits for three-quarters of the game, but Carter offered a glimmer of positivity simply with his presence on the floor.
“He certainly gives us a component we don’t have when he’s out there,” Phillips said. “The next step is to see how he feels tomorrow … maybe we can bump (his playing time) up a little bit and keep bumping it up until we get him to a point where he’s playing customary minutes for him.”
Carter, an all-conference freshman last year, didn’t start and was limited to 16 minutes. He scored six points on 2-for-6 shooting and had two rebounds, two assists, a turnover and no fouls.
On Tuesday, Carter spoke about working back to being in “basketball shape” and that he still had work to do. As the game wore on, his face reddened and his breaths shortened. But he’s battling illness, too, which he said played a factor in his conditioning.
“I think once the sickness goes away, it’ll be really easy to get back into basketball shape,” Carter said with a hoarse voice. “Because I felt a lot better than I thought I was. Still a long way to go.”
Phillips noted that, even if Carter’s injury symptoms are all gone, it’ll be a process to bring him back to playing 30-plus minutes per night, which is where the Bobcats would like him to be.
“You can get on the treadmill all day long, but that isn’t the same as running up and down the court,” Phillips said. “You’re working different muscles. … But I think early returns are good on his foot.”
There are no returns yet on Dartis, whose injury happened in the first minute of the second half.
Phillips said he didn’t see what caused the injury, but he watched Dartis try to shake it off in offensive transition. Then, when Dartis came back on defense, he failed to contest a 3-point attempt, and Phillips called a timeout to remove him from the game.
Ohio athletic trainer Annika Bailey wasn’t at the game, so the Bobcats won’t have a diagnosis for Dartis until they fly back to Athens. Losing him for any amount of time will damage their backcourt, especially after a night in which they shot 5-for-20 from three.
Thursday was supposed to be a step forward for the team’s health.
In the past week, the Bobcats welcomed back forward Kevin Mickle (Friday versus Coppin State) and Carter, with two other big men — freshmen A.J. Gareri and Ben Vander Plas — on the verge of returning to practice.
Then Dartis hurt his ankle, and the Bobcats’ recovery plans hit a roadblock.
“Somebody agitated the witch doctor, I think,” Phillips said. “I don’t know.”