In a season of uncertainty, Ohio vs. Eastern Michigan has one cemented aspect: When those teams match up, the basketball is ugly.
When they first played, the two teams scored a combined 102 points, and Ohio lost Antonio Campbell, its best player and the reigning conference Player of the Year. When they played again Tuesday, it was a hack-fest. The Bobcats went to the free throw line 42 times in a 79-71 road win.
Sexiness, or the lack thereof aside, the Ohio win offered a sign of consistency while the push for the No. 2 season in the Mid-American Conference Tournament heats up.
Here are three takeaways from the Bobcats win:
Tuesday’s win marked consecutive wins for Ohio for the first time since the team started conference play 3-0. The first Eastern Michigan matchup was the start of Ohio’s troubles.
Success hasn’t come easy. Just a week ago, the Bobcats surrendered their solid start in MAC play to a 6-5 record. Average, but still enough to keep the No. 2 seed.
Fast forward a week, and Ohio is now 8-5 in conference (16-8 overall) with a handful of games remaining, three of which are at home.
That’s not to say Ohio can sneak into Cleveland for the MAC Tournament in comfort, but the Bobcats are in a comfortable position.
Akron aside, the MAC is mediocre this season. For Ohio, that’s been a good thing, especially since Campbell was sidelined.
Granted, the Zips are 12-1 in conference play and look all but safe for an NCAA Tournament appearance, the rest of the conference is clumped together like a bowl of sour grapes.
Both Ohio and Buffalo are a respectable 8-5, but after that Ball State is 7-6 and five teams are 6-7. Maybe that makes the conference look competitive.
Instead, it proves one program is much, much better than the others. With three of the next five games coming against the two worst teams in the conference, coach Saul Phillips and the Bobcats may receive a coveted spot in the conference quarterfinal on the opposite of the bracket from Akron.
Winning now to win later
Ohio will host Bowling Green on Saturday in The Convo. The last time the two met was an easy win for Ohio: Bowling Green was so short in available players that it brought football players into the game.
Although that might not be the case come Saturday, winning is a necessity. Not only would Ohio have a three-game winning streak in conference play for the first time since it started 3-0, but it would keep the team ahead of Buffalo.
From there, Ohio travels to Miami, then Kent State. Winning those three games, and the Feb. 28 matchup with Buffalo would secure the No. 2 spot in the MAC Tournament.
Not that the Bobcats should look ahead.