After their worst loss of the season, a 91-57 drubbing handed over by Toledo, Ohio guard James Gollon and forward Doug Taylor talked about the necessity of competing.
They didn’t have much else to say, not that they should be expected to provide all the answers within the hour of an embarrassing home loss that kept the Bobcats (8-9, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) in the basement of the conference.
But when coach Saul Phillips had his turn to speak, his lips were pursed and his words were pointed.
“To me, compete is just a phrase, right?” he said. “You gotta go deeper than that. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, we gotta compete harder.’ Dougie Taylor competed hard tonight. But that’s like saying, ‘Boy, the Titanic had really nice lawn chairs tonight.’”
On a drastically different night, Taylor would’ve had a game worthy of praise, scoring a career-high 15 points to go with six blocks and five rebounds.
As it stood, however, his stat line faded out from a much bolder narrative: Ohio’s offensive nightmares were compounded by an inability to stop Toledo’s white-hot 3-point shooting.
Multiple four-minute scoring droughts kept the Bobcats anchored. And the transition defense lagged. Toledo built a hefty halftime lead and kept Ohio at least 15 points behind the entire second half.
“I think in the first half, every mistake we made — be it a missed layup or a turnover — turned into a three on the other end in about five seconds,” Phillips said.
In the first 30 minutes of the game, Ohio had zero bench points. Neither point guard, Teyvion Kirk nor Zach Butler, finished with an assist.
The Bobcats’ sputtering offense — which is scoring 64.5 points per game over its past six games after an 81.2 points per game average before that — was made to look even worse when compared to Toledo’s effectiveness at the other end.
Ohio knew what it needed to stop. The Rockets, ranked sixth in NCAA Division I in 3-point shooting percentage, are not secretive about their greatest strength.
And yet, the Bobcats watched Toledo pour in 13-of-22 threes, most of which were taken with comfortable separation.
Right now, as it has for most of the year, Ohio is trying to find productive rotations to account for a slew of injuries, aches and pains. Phillips, though, is hesitant to talk about it.
“That’s an excuse and no one wants to hear it,” he said, “but that’s fact.”
Forward Jason Carter (lower right leg), a preseason all-MAC selection, has been on the bench for the past month. Guard Jordan Dartis (hip) and forward Gavin Block (unknown) are playing through pain, but no one around them has consistently stepped up to help.
“Who came in there tonight and screamed, ‘I need more minutes?’” Phillips asked, rhetorically. “I didn’t see it.”
On Monday, Phillips talked about how close the MAC is this season. How a three-game winning streak could shoot a team up the standings because of the across-the-board competitiveness.
Toledo (12-6, 4-1 MAC) did everything it could to dispel that theory, winning its seventh game in the past eight and dumping Ohio to a tie for its worst conference start in the past seven seasons.
Still, with more than two-thirds of the conference games to go, Ohio has plenty of time to turn things around. The players certainly see it that way and are hopeful to use the harsh loss as a means for pushing ahead.
“You can take this either one of two ways,” Gollon said. “You can either fold, or learn from it and have it motivate you going forward. And if I know every one of our guys on our team, it’s gonna motivate us and fuel us to go forward.”