For a while, it appeared that 2016 could hit Ohio with one final gut punch.
Down three at halftime to Urbana, a Division II school, the Bobcats went to the locker room stunned and out of rhythm.
They came out of it with fury. Urbana had no chance.
The Bobcats rebounded from a less-than stellar first half to beat the Blue Knights 77-50 on Friday night at The Convo. Ohio gained one last win in 2016 to push its record to 8-3 before conference play begins next week.
"(It was) coach talking what we needed to fix, we weren't playing with energy," Jordan Dartis said of the halftime atmosphere on the Ohio IMG Sports Network post-game show. "Other than that, at the end of the day we had to sit down and get stops, and that's what we did in the second half."
Ohio started the game on a 19-9 run, but Urbana ended the half on a 25-12 run to take a 34-31 lead. Urbana (5-6, 0-4 Mountain East Conference) has been less than impressive in Division II this season, having allowed more than 100 points three times. Suffice to say, the halftime score was a shock.
Despite defending Mid-American Conference Player of The Year Antonio Campbell on the bench, the Bobcats, in theory, should have ran away with the game from the get-go. The Blue Knights have just one player above 6 foot 6 and were just .500 in Division II.
“I felt like at first we came out with high energy," Dartis said. "But I feel like the second half of that first half, we were going through the motions. I thought we had the game over with. They got hot, they came back and had us down three at half. We did our job in the second half and got that done.”
Ohio outscored Urbana 46-16 in the second half and shot 56 percent from the field.
But with Campbell out of the game due to knee discomfort, Ohio had to rely on Doug Taylor to replace the star forward. Taylor finished with 11 points and three rebounds. Kenny Kaminski and Dartis helped out, adding in 18 and 14 points of their own, respectively.
“(Taylor) is an emotional kid that needs to play off of emotion and energy and in the second half he did," coach Saul Phillips said. "I like that Doug better. It was an audible, louder conversation than normal. He didn’t like the conversation, but he responded very well to it.”
Campbell participated in shootaround and warmups, but Phillips decided to rest his force in the paint for MAC play, which begins on Tuesday against Western Michigan. The injury to Campbell is not serious and is not expected to keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
The injury, however, did have a silver lining, as Phillips was able to see how Taylor would respond as the lead big man.
“Doug starting tonight was a great growing experience," Phillips said. "You’re so fired up to get out there, all of the sudden there’s nothing left in the tank. He regrouped. I, to say challenged Doug directly, would be an understatement.”
Phillips seemed relieved after his team walked off the floor victorious, just four days away from MAC play. The Bobcats won't play another non-conference game until postseason play.
“Know that we’re working hard, we think we can get something special done this year," Phillips said. "We’re still night quite all the way there yet, but we creep closer every day.”