CLEVELAND – In one game, Ohio experienced its biggest rise and its biggest fall.
In one half, the Bobcats experienced perhaps their best offensive performance of the season. In another, a mediocre one. And in one possession, the Bobcats had a chance to win a game that they should have won before the final seconds.
With fewer than 10 seconds left, Ohio forward Kelly Karlis forced a steal after Northern Illinois inbounded the ball. The Bobcats passed the ball up the floor, where it went to Amani Burke for a 3-pointer in the corner. Burke missed, and Ohio’s season ended.
Ohio lost 72-71 to Northern Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I thought we played a nice first half,” coach Bob Boldon said. “Forty minutes is a long time.”
The Bobcats’ rise was fairy-tale like in the first half. It was as if a different team had traveled to Cleveland, and at that, a team that could make shots.
But as Boldon said, 40 minutes is long time. It’s easy to gradually lose a lead after starting well. The Bobcats’ largest lead was 22 points, and the Huskies picked at it gradually.
The first half was a fairy tale for the Bobcats, their above average shooting was too good to last. Ohio experienced reality in the second half, reverting to their old breakdowns. The new team left, and it was as if its euphoric first half never existed.
Though the Bobcats missed their shots, they took good ones. It was the same story the Bobcats had traveled through the entire season: could shots go in on a consistent basis?
“We ran the same stuff, we got the ball in the same part of the floor, we moved it to the same people in the same spots,” Boldon said.
The Bobcats were consistent in that the shots they earned were identical to the first half. But they didn’t go in, and Northern Illinois is too good of an offensive team to have a mediocre offensive game.
Even with the Huskies’ emergence in the second half, though, the Bobcats fell in a category in which they usually excel: defense.
Shoddy defense played a role in the Bobcats’ downfall. They gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter while only scoring •nine.
“We lost our energy and we stopped playing defense,” guard Quiera Lampkins said.
As Ohio’s defense waned, the fairy tale faded. For the Bobcats, who clearly looked like the better team for most of the game, was on the end of a chilling comeback.
The Bobcats’ energy was sapped, their bench silent. Ohio had lost a game it should have won, and in one game, the Bobcats experienced happiness and agony.
It was a fitting end to an underwhelming season.
“We fell short,” Boldon said. “I think that’s a good way to put it.”