After Ohio lost 78-56 at home against Miami on Wednesday, Bob Boldon called the team’s recent play on defense bad.
The Bobcats have prided themselves on playing quality defense this season. They’ve been ranked in the top five of the country for turnover margin most of the season. The Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference for steals per game, and they’re four steals away from breaking the program’s record for most steals in a season. The 2004-05 team has the record, with 350 steals for that season.
But in the past four games, Ohio has allowed 20 or more points in at least one quarter. The only game the Bobcats won out of those four was against Kent State at home Feb. 21.
The defensive slump the Bobcats are in will need to be reversed soon, though. Ohio will host a first-round MAC Tournament game Monday against Akron. The Bobcats lost to the Zips 62-59 on the road Saturday.
On the surface, the Bobcats losing to the Zips — who are in last place — could be considered an anomaly. Ohio was without its top scorer and best defender, Cierra Hooks, who suffered an apparent ankle injury against Miami.
But the loss shouldn’t be viewed as an anomaly. The first time these two teams played in the regular season, Ohio won in overtime as Taylor Agler made the game-winning layup.
Further, the Zips’ record (9-20, 3-15 MAC) suggests they’re a bad team. That’s partly true — the Zips aren’t as good as the top of the MAC. They aren’t on the level of Central Michigan, Buffalo, Ball State and Miami, the top four teams in the conference.
But the Zips aren’t bad compared to the middle of the conference, either.
“Everybody can beat us, as proven tonight,” Boldon said after the Akron game Saturday.
That’s what the Bobcats will need to consider ahead of Monday’s game. If Hooks isn’t available, Ohio will be without its best defender.
Still, like any good defensive team, the Bobcats’ defense doesn’t completely rely on the talent of one player.
“We’re supposed to be a team defense, not an individual defense,” Agler said after the Miami game. “So that’s not on (Hooks). That’s on us.”
The Zips took advantage of Ohio’s transition defense, pushing the ball up the floor when they gained possession. While the Bobcats have played good defense in the half court, they haven’t played well in transition. Along with that, they also struggle to defend the 3-pointer in the half court.
The Zips moved the ball well in the half court, forcing Ohio’s defense to move with the ball. Akron didn’t shoot well, but it did shoot often. The Zips shot 30 3-pointers but only made six.
More importantly, what the Zips benefited from was winning the rebound battle. They had 48 rebounds to the Bobcats’ 45. Also, the Zips had 14 offensive rebounds to the Bobcats’ 12.
And in the second and third quarters, the Zips made shots while the Bobcats didn’t. Between both quarters, the Bobcats only made five field goals. The Zips made nine, but they also had 29 rebounds in those two quarters. The Bobcats were outscored 20-10 in the second quarter.
Playing good defense, while also making enough shots, is what’s going to help Ohio keep its season going.
“This conference is pretty good. A lot of good teams,” Boldon said after the Akron game. “The tournament is going to be exciting, I’m anxious to see how it goes. Still hopeful that we can kind of put something together.”