During practice Monday, coach Saul Phillips walked onto the court with his arms folded across his gray sweatshirt and asked, “How long has it been since we scored?”
The Bobcats had gone five possessions without a basket on the scout team. It was a mini scoring slump that served as a microcosm of the mini skid Ohio (8-8, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) is in at the outset of conference play.
First, the Bobcats were on the wrong end of a 25-point blowout at Central Michigan. Then, after splitting a pair of home matchups, they let late chances slip by in a one-point loss at Kent State.
Now Ohio, tied for last in the MAC East Division, will head into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. matchup at The Convo with a chance to steer its fortune in the right direction — against Toledo (11-6, 3-1 MAC), the MAC West leader.
The Bobcats have lost three of four, which is hard to call a cold streak because it’s such a small sample size. A less disputable fact, however, is that their offense has gone cold.
In the past five games, Ohio is averaging 66 points, which is 10 below its season average. Four of its five starters are shooting below average in that span, with the exception of Doug Taylor, who's only taking five shots per game this year.
Forward Gavin Block has hit a rough patch harder than most Bobcats, shooting 27.3 percent his past five games with just 5.4 points per game to show for it. But because he's plugged in for more than 30 minutes a night, he’ll find opportunities to climb out of this hole.
“I definitely think anyone who goes into a little bit of a slump is gonna press a little bit,” Block said. “But the coaching staff and the guys behind me have done a great job of just keeping me focused and confident — and they keep telling me to keep shooting it.”
Both Block and guard Zach Butler said the best way to improve the offense would be to emphasize ball movement and cut down on isolation play.
Phillips confirmed the solution is that simple.
“When we get into zero and one-pass possessions, we tend to hit dry spells,” he said. “Some of them, they’re open on and you want them to take the shots. Others, you know what, we can get that shot any time we want. Let’s reverse it a few times and attack in some different ways.”
The Rockets, comparatively, appear to have no problem attacking with offense. They are winners of three in a row and six of seven — including an 11-point win over Central Michigan on Saturday — while boasting the sixth-best 3-point shooting clip in NCAA Division I (41.6 percent).
Toledo's Tre’Shaun Fletcher, a 6-foot-7 senior guard who transferred from Colorado, is one player Ohio will need to be particularly aware of. He’s eclipsed 20 points in four of his past five games, shooting 57.6 percent in that time.
Phillips isn’t necessarily anticipating his players will catch fire like that, but he mentioned Block as someone who will hopefully find an offensive turnaround. Given Ohio’s results to open MAC play, Block isn’t the only one with room to improve.
“It doesn’t really matter who it is,” Phillips said. “We just need a little more out of everybody.”