The Bobcats were in control for nearly 40 minutes Wednesday night. They just faltered when it mattered.
Ohio had possession with the game tied at 66, despite having blown a 14- and 17-point lead, when Kenny Kaminski shot a 3-pointer with just under 10 seconds left.
Back the other way, Jordan Dartis committed a foul to put Western Kentucky guard Damari Parris on the line with 1.8 seconds left. Parris made just one shot, but that was enough for the to Hilltoppers beat the Bobcats 67-66 at the E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
"Dude’s on the naughty list. What can I say? He’s worked his way to the naughty list," coach Saul Phillips said of the official who called Dartis' foul on the Ohio IMG Sports Network Postgame Show. "Here’s just an overall statement: It’s always unfortunate on a game that’s decided that way, on a shot that’s not attacking the rim, where there wasn’t any contact on the arms.”
The final 10 seconds just didn't go Ohio's way, but that was enough.
The Bobcats led for 31:40 compared to the Hilltoppers 1:07, but it didn't matter, as the Bobcats couldn't make a shot in the final four and a half minutes. Ohio (7-3) finished the game on a 2-11 stretch shooting.
“I see what the end picture is going to be. I’m done suffering with losses we shouldn’t have. I mean I’m done," Phillips said. "If my tone isn’t getting through in a nice way, maybe I’ve got to get a little bit more aggressive with them. I can’t sit there and watch a bunch of smart guys on and off the floor do a bunch of smart things that hold us back offensively.”
Kaminski scored 27 points to lead all scorers, but his final missed 3-pointer, and along with the team's offensive inefficiency, that will be the black mark left on the schedule.
“We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to step up," Phillips said. "Again, we shot free throws all week long and we charted it; We were 80 percent as a team, so what’s the problem? Do you learn from going through this a couple times? I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating tonight was.”
Ohio started out the game on fire on both ends of the court, opening a 14-0 and later a 21-4 lead in the first minutes of the half. In the final 31 minutes, however, Ohio scored just 45 points.
The Hilltoppers struggled late offensively as well and only made one shot in the final five minutes and 11 seconds. The Bobcats just couldn't buy a bucket.
“We got stops. We got plenty of stops," Phillips said. "We were doing great. This group, with the offensive firepower that we have, being one score on our last seven possessions is insane. That’s gotta change. My frustration isn’t with the work these guys have put in, it’s very detailed things that we can do better."
The Bobcats won't be in action again until they face Urbana on Dec. 30 at The Convo. Until then, Phillips will have to figure out what exactly is plaguing his team, which is now 1-3 on the road.
The pieces are there for the Bobcats; that's clear. The Hilltoppers were stymied by the Bobcats offense and defense early and started the game 1-10 shooting. Maybe that's what so frustrating.
“I’d be in a much different mood had we made one of a number of plays slightly differently," Phillips said. "Free throws down the stretch, step up and make them. Can’t get it back ... you know what? I told my team, 'Let’s get home, let’s get with our families, let’s be thankful for what we have, let’s be thankful for each other. Merry Christmas.' ”