The Bobcats have spent the last week feeling good about themselves.
They just won back-to-back games for the first time in conference play and the offense is finally showing signs of coming around. Ohio also has climbed out of the basement in the Mid-American Conference, adding to the logjam at the 9th spot.
A problem is looming, though, and it comes in the form of four 15-point per game scorers and the MAC's second best rebounding team.
Ohio will head to Buffalo on Saturday for a 3:30 tip at Alumni Arena, but more importantly, a chance to prove the last two games were not a fluke of any kind.
“We want no one to feel like, ‘Oh, we want to play Ohio, it’s just a pushover game,’ " Gavin Block said. "We want to be that team they don’t want to play.”
Currently in a four-way tie for ninth in the conference, the Bobcats have just three games remaining in their season. The first of which comes against MAC-leading Buffalo.
“I just think that we need to keep playing the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games," Block said. "Offensively and defensively, they’re a very skilled team. We’ve got to come in with a chip on our shoulder and be ready to play.”
The biggest battle, both literally and figuratively, will come on the glass. Buffalo ranks first in the MAC for defensive rebounds (28.6) per game, effectively eliminating second chance points for the opposition. That will put extra emphasis on Ohio's possessions — score on the first shot, or likely don't score at all.
Then on the defensive end, the Bobcats will have to prepare for the Bulls fast-paced attack, one that is ranked first in the MAC in points per game and 18th in the country. The quick shots create long rebounds for the Bulls, who often times keep the other team off balance.
"We just have to have the discipline to run around and find our guys before we go to crash," Doug Taylor said. "Stay consistent with it throughout the game, keep pushing on the guys. The outlandish shots that they take, they get saved by offensive rebounds. If we just box out and end the possession, we should be OK.”
Buffalo's offense was held at bay in their last meeting on Jan. 26 and scored just 73 points. The problem for Ohio, however, was that it only scored 67 points.
"Defensively, we held them under one point per possession," coach Saul Phillips said. "We need to score. Our offense has been steadily improving, hopefully it’s improved enough to where we can hang a little bit.”
Ohio has scored 85.1 points per game in February, a stark improvement from January. But the toughest task of the month is upcoming six and a half hours away.
With a win, Ohio will show that it can piece together wins to be a tough out in the MAC Tournament in just over a week. But an ugly loss, could bring the Bobcats right back to square one with just a week to go.
“They’re probably one of the best in the country at getting downhill in transition, getting outlets and running," Block said. "If we just make shots, that slows them down to begin with. Get back on defense and just build a wall.”