Bob Boldon looked puzzled and frustrated as he sat in his press conference Wednesday.
His team had a chance to grab possession of the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament when it faced Miami in The Convo, but the chance fell flat as the Bobcats lost to the RedHawks 78-56 in an ugly fashion.
“I’m disappointed in (the team), just in general,” Boldon said.
With so much to be determined prior to the game, the Bobcats were in position to control their destiny: a fourth seed, a bye and a ticket to Cleveland.
The reasons as to why Ohio couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities are everywhere.
Cierra Hooks, the Bobcats' leading scorer, played two minutes and 35 seconds. On a fastbreak, Hooks fell to the floor, anguishing in pain as she covered her face. As she was helped off the floor by the training staff with the score tied 5-5, she put little-to-no weight on her right leg. Her night was done.
“That’s a tough blow,” Taylor Agler said. “She does everything for us. She’s a huge part of this team. I don’t think it went through anyone’s mind, but you can definitely see her absence was huge.”
While Ohio’s leading scorer was on the end of the bench in a walking boot, Miami’s Lauren Dickerson and Kendall McCoy scored 21 points each and terrorized the Bobcats. Both converted on easy baskets in the lane. Both crushed Ohio from beyond the 3-point arc.
Dickerson, who had 27 points the last time Miami and Ohio met, was quiet in the first half; she had just seven points. McCoy, however, was lethal. McCoy had 17 first-half points and hit three 3-pointers. Dickerson did the damage necessary in the second half.
As Dickerson and McCoy created matchup nightmares for the Bobcats, Ohio’s defense proved to be far from clinical. The RedHawks had 17 offensive rebounds and 48 total rebounds. They scored at least 17 points in every quarter.
The Bobcats (15-13, 9-8 MAC) prided themselves on defense for the majority of the season. It was their calling card. But Wednesday night, Miami seemed to get every shot it wanted. Miami (19-9, 11-6 MAC) is the third straight opponent to score over 70 points against the Bobcats, joining Buffalo and Kent State.
A common theme has arrived in Athens lately: defensive effort. While the talent is in the right place for Ohio, according to Agler, the effort is not. Late defensive shifts, blown assignments and lack of hustle plagued the Bobcats as Miami continued to find easy paths to the rim.
“I think we lost because of effort,” Agler said. “I don’t think we lost because Miami’s better than us. I completely believe we’re more talented than Miami and they played a lot harder than us.”
Whether it was Hooks’ absence, the Miami duo wrecking the Ohio defense or effort on defense — or maybe all three — the Bobcats now face a new challenge: regrouping as they close out the regular season before the MAC Tournament, which starts Monday in The Convo.
And no matter what the reason, Ohio’s chance to have the coveted bye straight to Cleveland is now an afterthought.
“It’s unfortunate,” Boldon said. “We had a nice opportunity. We don’t have that opportunity anymore.”