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After making five consecutive postseason tournaments, the Bobcats had their worst season since 2004-2005 with a 10-20 record. Ohio lost eight of its final nine games and only won consecutive games twice all season.

Ohio hits road for first-round tournament game

The Bobcats have a “nothing to lose” mindset heading into the first round of the MAC Tournament.

Ohio guard Javarez “Bean” Willis wanted to put on a show during his last game in The Convo — the Bobcats’ senior night against rival Miami.

He did just that, scoring a career-high 34 points during a 95-65 Friday win that halted a seven-game Ohio losing streak.

“It’s a whole ’nother thing when you really know you’re not coming back to The Convo,” Willis, a redshirt senior guard, said.

With the Mid-American Conference Tournament starting Monday, Willis is only guaranteed one more game with his teammates.He promised Friday that Bobcats fans won’t see a lack of effort from his team, whether Monday on the road against No. 6 Western Michigan or later this week in Cleveland.

“Now we’re fighting for our lives,” senior guard Stevie Taylor said. “Let’s go spoil some people’s season, and if we fall short, it is what it is.”

Willis was one of three seniors that helped stop Ohio’s skid. Forward Maurice Ndour added 27 points and 11 rebounds. Willis, Ndour and Taylor combined to score 67 points Friday, accounting for 70 percent of the Bobcats’ offense.

Ohio has seen success when that senior trio carries its offense, and Bobcats coach Saul Phillips said it was nice to see the seniors rewarded for their efforts.

“At least we’ve got something to sell them going into the tournament game,” Phillips said. “If nothing else comes out of it, it’s (the) last moment where these guys had fun together.”

Ohio (10-19, 5-13 MAC) will be the No. 11 seed for the tournament.

There’s a good chance the tournament winner will be the only MAC team to earn an NCAA Tournament berth — a perennial goal for the Bobcats.

Since losing its first four games of conference play, Ohio’s goal for almost two months has been to figure out how to win heading into the postseason. Friday, it may have done that.

Ken Pomeroy, the creator of a popular advanced statistical archive, has listed Ohio’s chances of winning five games in six days at 0.04 percent. Then again, in 2010 the Bobcats won four games in seven days to win the tournament as a No. 9 seed.

“I propose we go into the MAC Tournament the loosest group in the history of basketball and just see how much fun we can have for as long as we can have, and that’s where we’re at,” Phillips said. “That’s not a highly scientific approach, but that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

Willis said the Bobcats didn’t expect to finish the regular season with a losing record but that they were satisfied with the way they ended their regular season.

Now, the team is staring down a rematch with Western Michigan — a team that left Ohio frustrated in defeat earlier this season.

Phillips said Friday that he doesn’t know why Ohio has been inconsistent on the court this season but he wants to keep the team competing in tournament play as long as possible.

“Welcome to March,” Phillips said after Friday’s win. “I’ve had some of the best non-family related moments of my life this time of the year. Let’s see what we can do.”


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