Coach Saul Phillips and the Bobcats can still host a Mid-American Conference Tournament game.
With four games remaining, Phillips and the Bobcats (11-15, 4-10 MAC) are tied for 11th place with two games separating them from the eighth spot. Phillips doesn’t know which scenario yields what, though.
It hurts to check the bottom of the standings.
“I can promise ya this: If we were chasing the conference lead, I’d have a better idea,” Phillips said. “But right now we’re just trying to get every win we can.”
Next on the list of potential victories is Kent State on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. In the Bobcats’ first meeting with the Golden Flashes on Jan. 12, the Bobcats lost 70-69 after failing to execute late in the game.
That’s been a theme for Ohio’s conference campaign. The team has failed in close games for various reasons: Missed free throws, missed layups and turnovers have played a factor. Phillips calls the flaws “grease fires.”
The grease burns hotter on the road than at home, though. The Bobcats still have just one true road win this season. But luckily for bad hotel sleeper Gavin Block and company, Kent State will travel to The Convo this time.
“You think college kids like hotels,” Block said. “But after a while, you get annoyed with them, and you just want to be back in your own bed.”
Even at home, though, the Bobcats have showcased their flaws. They nearly gave their most recent win away against Miami on Saturday, despite a positive bounce back game after Phillips decided to bench Block.
Phillips is concerned with the variety of reasons for close losses, and he can’t douse every fire between now and March, particularly with the flux of his team’s health (Jordan Dartis didn’t practice Monday but should play Tuesday).
For that reason, Phillips has adopted the “survive and advance” mantra a little earlier than usual this season.
“I think we’ve been in that mode for a little while now,” Phillips said. “We’ve kind of been locked in to a style of play for a while here out of necessity. Our little tweaks haven’t been as drastic as normal.”
His players have taken notice. Block knows Ohio hasn’t won two straight games in 2018. Block knows that, at this point, his team’s focus might be rooted more in results-over-process than they were his first two seasons.
He said it feels different being the lower seed looking to cause chaos in the tournament as opposed to the high seed expected to compete. But that doesn’t mean expectations have changed.
“We all believe we can beat anyone in this conference,” Block said. “Last couple years, that’s been proven in Cleveland.”
To prove Block right, the Bobcats will have to beat teams they lost to previously. They blew their second chance against Central Michigan, and they feel as if they did the same in their first matchup with Kent State.
There’s only one way to prove a fluke.
“One got away from us at their place,” Block said. “We owe them one.”