Ohio’s 70-60 win against Bowling Green Wednesday did more than just avenge a loss to the Falcons earlier in the season. It gave the Bobcats something they haven’t had in two years — a winning conference record.
The Bobcats (15-13) have won seven of their past nine games and now have a 7-6 Mid-American Conference mark. They are also on their first three-game winning streak since the MAC and NCAA Tournaments last March.
After a 1-4 start to the MAC punctuated by blowing an 18-point halftime lead to Buffalo, the Bobcats have won six of their past eight conference contests.
“I think we’ve approached every practice with the mindset of, ‘We need to get better,’” senior guard Tommy Freeman said. “We’ve come together a lot as a team … we’re just making plays at the right times, and it’s helped us have some success.”
Ohio hasn’t had an above-.500 MAC record since Feb. 26, 2009, after a win against Miami gave the Bobcats a 7-6 mark. The Bobcats then lost their next three games to finish 7-9.
Last season, poor play at the beginning of the MAC schedule led to an 0-4 start, and the Bobcats had to fight back all season long before finishing with a matching
Despite the poor starts in each of the past two seasons, coach John Groce has stressed the importance of playing one game at a time and not looking too far back in the past or ahead to the future.
“I think our guys believe right now, and I believe, that we’ll get better every day. That’s been happening,” Groce said. “It’s been happening over the course of, in particular, the last 10 ball games. We’re going to continue to take that approach, and we’re going to let the score take care of itself.”
Still, the Bobcats are yet to finish the season with a winning MAC record under Groce. But as their upset run to the NCAA Tournament last year shows, winning in late February and March perhaps matters more than winning early.
“We make more toughness plays. We step up and make some plays on offense and defense, and we stay together as a team,” Groce said. “That’s what good teams do this time of year. And we’ll let the result take care of itself.”