BOWLING GREEN — Jordan Dartis, with a crutch in each hand, took cautious steps down a hallway as he left Ohio’s locker room.
During the game, a 66-50 loss Tuesday night to Bowling Green, Dartis aggravated a nagging hip injury and did not return.
He was one of three Bobcats who needed help leaving the court. Asked about his injury, on the way to the team bus, he gave a small shrug and a succinct response.
“How it goes, man,” he said.
The laundry list of hurt players keeps growing for Ohio, a sort of injury added to the insult of its position at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference.
Before Dartis went down, guard Mike Laster hit the floor and was helped up while holding his left shoulder — the same one that popped out against Eastern Michigan 10 days prior. Laster returned three minutes later, but it’s possible his injury will continue to recur.
Late in the first half, before Laster was hurt, guard Zach Butler injured his left shoulder while reaching for a loose ball. Butler spent the second half on the bench with his arm in a sling.
Coach Saul Phillips said it’s too early to tell the status of Dartis or Butler. For road games, team procedure is to wait until the players return to Athens to see a doctor and receive a diagnosis.
The severity for Butler, who’s been healthy all season, is difficult to project. Dartis, however, hasn’t participated in a full practice since Jan. 15 and is well aware of his hip problems. He receives regular treatments and expends his hip strength during games.
Tuesday was a reinforcement of one of Ohio’s darkest themes this season: A mile-high pile of injuries preventing the Bobcats from using lineups they want and has led to an excruciating rough patch offensively (64.3 points per game in the past 10 games).
“You try not to get caught up in that,” Phillips said. “OK, what do we do next? … Got unusual combinations both offensively and defensively at times. (Our players) battled, but you don’t get an award for battling at the end of the day.”
Ohio (9-12, 2-7 MAC) has been shackled by injuries from the start, when preseason all-conference pick Jason Carter limped off the court in the Nov. 4 exhibition against Capital University. At the time, the injury was downplayed. But Carter has only played three times since then and hasn’t dressed since Dec. 16.
A painful procession followed.
Forward Kevin Mickle suffered a meniscus injury, which he’s played through thanks in part to a brace on his right knee. He showed obvious signs of discomfort against Bowling Green, as he hobbled up and down the court during several late stretches in the second half.
Forward Gavin Block is playing through pain, too. Phillips hasn’t disclosed what the specific injury is, but he’s consistently called Block one of the toughest players he’s coached — evidenced by Block drawing hard contact and lunging to the floor on a game-to-game basis.
The list of injured players is complete with freshmen forwards A.J. Gareri (shoulder) and Ben Vander Plas (unknown). Gareri has played just seven games this season, albeit in a limited role, while Vander Plas has yet to dress.
Vander Plas is practicing full time, but appears on track to sit out the year as a redshirt. Phillips acknowledged that the depleting health on his roster could impact that decision.
“You gotta do the cost/benefit (calculation),” Phillips said. “We’ll have conversations with him and his family and figure out what’s best for him and this program and make the decision accordingly.”
What would be best for the program right now is a clean bill of health, though Ohio cannot wish that into existence. Instead, the Bobcats must work with the healthy players they have and try to return to relevance in the conference standings.
“Just pray for another day,” Laster said. “And that we get through it.”