Most of Ohio’s practice Thursday was a stark variation from what has recently been happening for the team offensively.
In the past two games, the Bobcats posted perhaps their two best outputs, shooting over 50 percent consecutively for the first time since late November and assisting on nearly two-thirds of their baskets.
But sloppy passing and countless turnovers checkered the practice, leading to the first-string players scoring just 20 points in 30 possessions at one point.
“You want one game to be the highlight of your season?” coach Saul Phillips asked, referencing Tuesday’s dousing of Akron.
No, the Bobcats don’t want that. They want to build on recent offensive success, facing a chance to do so Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on the road against Western Michigan.
After failing to score 80 points in 10 straight games, Ohio has surpassed 90 points in its past two. While injury issues have hardly subsided, the team’s ability to put up points has shifted in the proper direction.
“We’ve certainly made progress,” Phillips said. “I don’t know what I’d have to see to (call) it a trend. I don’t know if there’s enough games left in the year to make it a trend.”
Two games aren’t enough to be considered a trend, but it’s a start. If the offensive production can continue in a similar way, Ohio (10-13, 3-8 Mid-American Conference) may make a push up the conference standings, in which the team is in a three-way tie for last.
The Broncos (14-10, 6-5 MAC), on the other hand, have what appears to be a misleadingly average conference record. Their quintet of losses includes four against the MAC’s division leaders — Buffalo and Toledo — and a two-point road loss against Kent State.
They are led by Thomas Wilder, a senior scoring machine who’s averaging nearly 20 points a game in conference play. Wilder presents perhaps the most interesting matchup for Ohio, who will primarily use freshman guard Teyvion Kirk to defend him.
“TK has played against some really good point guards this year,” Phillips said. “And I told TK in film that this might be the best one that he’s seen.”
Kirk — the Bobcats’ leading scorer at 15.1 points per game and the highest-scoring freshman in the conference — found Wilder’s name at the beginning of the year when he was researching conference player of the year candidates.
When asked about facing Wilder, Kirk preferred to talk about playing his own game as opposed to making a specialized adjustment.
On a broader scope, that mindset applies to the Ohio offense. The Bobcats believe they have a system that works and they’ve proven it in back to back games. There’s plenty more to prove, though.
“I’m kind of mad that we took late in the season, including myself, to really just implement what (Phillips) was telling us,” Kirk said. “But as you can see, we’re moving the ball pretty well. Everybody’s scoring, everybody’s eating.”