With 12:30 remaining in the first half, Mike Laster drove from the right wing and flung the ball out to James Gollon, who quickly swung it to Gavin Block, who passed it along to Teyvion Kirk for an open 3-pointer.
Three passes in three seconds that led to three points. It’s the type of movement that’s taken Ohio months to hammer at, hone and implement effectively.
In Tuesday night’s 75-59 win over Bowling Green, the Bobcats displayed their latest showing of offensive selflessness. For a fourth straight game, they sported at least five players with double-digit points.
“Offensively, we’ve come an awful long way,” coach Saul Phillips said.
The Bobcats hit their low point Jan. 30, on the road against Bowling Green. They tied a season-low with 50 points (including just 19 in the first half) and had only three assists. It was flat-out embarrassing for a team running a motion-based offense, where crisp, consistent passing is imperative.
The eight games since have served as a face-lift: more than 80 points and 17 assists per game, as well as four wins. Phillips said he noticed the trend shifting before the wins came along. Change had to come on the practice court before presenting itself in games.
“You can’t make people understand what you’re trying to do overnight,” he said. “Between having a couple freshman point guards and between having some upperclassmen that didn’t play maybe this brand of basketball until this year … there’s been growing pains.”
Motion offense is a product of circumstance for Phillips’ group. The Bobcats lack a go-to scorer.
They had one in preseason all-conference pick Jason Carter, but a stress fracture sidelined him in December. Then there’s Jordan Dartis, another all-conference selection in the fall, who struggles with consistency thanks to a yearlong hip injury.
As a result, a successful night for the Bobcats is typically one in which several players have a hand in the scoring.
“If you’ve got five, six guys in double figures, that means your team is becoming more and more unselfish and understanding that it’s easier when we all push together,” Phillips said.
That might be the recipe Ohio (13-16, 6-11 Mid-American Conference) needs to make noise in the conference tournament. Some trends are surfacing that suggest the team can look several directions for scoring, as opposed to leaning on one or two players.
Laster, the Bobcats’ second-leading scorer, had seven assists against Bowling Green on his senior night. He’d never had more than four in his previous 120 games. Block, who played a season-low 13 minutes, still managed to be one of four Bobcats with at least three assists.
On the scoring side, junior forward Doug Taylor has benefitted the most. He scored 14 points (including four dunks), collecting a third straight game in double figures for the first time in his career.
From his spot in the post, Taylor likes what he’s seeing. The emphasis on ball movement, the increased assist numbers and the points that follow are all part of a plan that’s been in place for a while — and the payoff appears to be coming.
“With our offense, it’s really hard to adjust to what we do, just because it’s mostly motion,” Taylor said. “You can’t really plan for our offense, especially when it’s going through fruition like it did tonight. To have that rhythm going into the tournament is a great thing.”