At this time last year, Ohio was sitting atop the Mid-American Conference and MAC East Division with one loss — against Buffalo — and preparing for redemption later in the week.
Present day, the Bobcats (18-7, 9-5 MAC) are fifth in the conference, tied with Kent State at the top of the MAC East and trying to bounce back from its two-game losing streak against Buffalo on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
"The immediate feeling is 'oh we suck,' " coach Bob Boldon said after practice Monday. "We haven't lost this many MAC games in years so you think, 'gosh, we're terrible.' "
But that isn't the case. Though it's been a down year for Ohio, the decline isn't because the team is bad, the competition in the MAC, specifically the West Division, has increased immensely and the Bobcats haven't played very well against the top MAC West opponents — teams they were crushing the two years prior.
The game against Buffalo this year is arguably bigger this year than it was a year ago. Ohio was fighting for redemption against a team that found a way to thwart its shooting with a zone it wasn't prepared for.
This year, the Buffalo game — the Bulls are one game behind Ohio — is about retaining the top spot in the MAC East and avoid playing the first game of the conference tournament in The Convo versus Quicken Loans Arena, which hasn't happened in three years.
Ohio has faltered late in the season, which can be credited to the poor shooting the team faced the past week. Two Saturdays ago, Ohio showed drastic improvements in a struggling offense, shooting the ball well against Ball State and hitting a season high 16 three pointers.
Against Central Michigan and Kent State, Ohio missed •93 total shots, something no one had an answer to.
"You try to replicate game shots (in practice) and get your players in the right mindset and physical positions so when that situation occurs in the game, they can succeed," Boldon said. "Sometimes you could say we took bad shots, I don't think that's the case. You could say maybe the wrong people were shooting them, I dont' think that's the case."
While Ohio has been streaky shooting the ball in the two most recent games, with four games left in the season, it doesn't have a lot of time to fix those problems ahead of the MAC Tournament. Preparation for Buffalo isn't going to be any different than for other games.
"So those are the two things that I am in control of, making sure the right kids are shooting the right shots and I think that we did that and it's up to us to make those shots," Boldon continued.
Boldon said the biggest thing his team needs right now is a win, and he isn't wrong. He can't afford to rest his players and treat any of the remaining games as "cupcake" games. Going 4-0 to close the season will almost necessary for the Bobcats if they plan to start in Cleveland.
To do that, they are going to need to make more shots than they have during their two-game losing streak.
"I don't know that we're going to try any harder to win these games than we were if we would have won the last two games, but we're going to go out and try our best to win," Boldon said. "But yes, if they are going to hand out bye (weeks), we'll take them."