Ohio was clinging to just a five-point lead in the final minutes. It was a similar situation to the loss to Eastern Michigan just days ago.
The Bobcats had leads Saturday, including a 12-point advantage after Taylor Agler buried a 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:02 remaining, but couldn’t maintain one. Double-digit leads didn’t last.
Ohio couldn’t seem to find separation — just like Wednesday night — even up until the closing minutes, but Saturday was different: The Bobcats found a way to maintain the lead and willed themselves past Bowling Green 69-58 in The Convo.
“You don’t just do it (have a close game) once and then learn,” coach Bob Boldon said. “Sometimes it takes two or three or four or seven times before you figure it out.”
The striking similarities from Wednesday night’s blown lead, still looming in the minds on Ohio’s bench, were too obvious to avoid. Ohio led for most of both games and had to hold on in the final minutes.
With 3:59 left, there seemed to be relapse to the fourth quarter from Wednesday. Ohio pulled out to a lead, and it was not going to sustain it. Bad fouls and poor possessions by Ohio, free throws and uncontested outside shots from Bowling Green.
Five point game.
The difference between the loss days ago and the Bobcats grinding out a win was defense; their lead was predicated on getting stops, too. They gave up 12 points in the fourth quarter, a stark contrast from the 30 given up in the final quarter Wednesday night.
“It’s hard to play with that kind of intensity,” Boldon said. “When we did, it looked pretty good. When we didn’t, Bowling Green pretty much got what they wanted.”
The game might have shifted toward another loss had Agler and sophomore Amani Burke, both back after nursing injuries in previous weeks, not been playing. Burke had a team-high 15 points and Agler provided leadership and crucial shots when Ohio needed them. Agler started for the first time in over two weeks; Burke came off the bench.
“I think every game I’m going to get a little closer to back to how I felt before the ankle injury,” Agler said.
With Burke and Agler both back to healthy, Ohio will look to secure a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference Tournament in just two weeks.
And after blowing the lead Wednesday night, having a follow-up act with a different result — a win — was what Ohio needed to take another step toward the bye.
“Every time we’re in these situations, it’s good for us,” Boldon said. “It’s stressful, but it’s certainly good for us.”