AKRON — With the Bobcats down one with just under 40 seconds left, they turned to the scorer that had regained his scoring touch.
Gavin Block dribbled to the right wing as the shot clock wound down and collected his dribble, as coach Saul Phillips stood across the floor in a boisterous James A. Rhodes Arena yelling for a timeout, which never came.
Block air-balled his 3-pointer, but had a chance for redemption on the following Ohio possession. Down three, he drove for layup and drew contact. No foul was called, though, as the ball rang out of the basket which fit the final few minutes for Ohio.
The Bobcats had their chances late, but could not find a way in a 71-68 loss to the Zips on Tuesday night.
“It was a big mental lapse on our part," Block said. "We had talked it over and knew that if we didn’t get the initial play that we probably needed to call a timeout. That falls on me, I didn’t call a timeout. It’s my fault.”
After a timeout for a review, Phillips told the team to call timeout if they didn't get the look they wanted on defense. Due to a rule change, a coach cannot call timeout during a live ball — it would had to have come from the floor. The Bobcats didn't get the look, but no timeout came.
"I’m sitting there yelling timeout right in the refs ear and to our guys, but they couldn’t hear me and it didn’t get done," Phillips said. "We can’t have those breakdowns in close games on the road. I’ve got to obviously communicate it clearer.”
The first possession with just under 40 seconds left called for a new play altogether. The final possession that ended in a Block missed layup was designed to be a 3-pointer which would have tied the game.
Block, who finished with 18 points and six made 3-pointers, had been the hot hand the Bobcats needed all night long. It was a welcome sight for Block, who had only reached double-digit points twice since November.
Mike Laster's first points didn't come until 2:31 left to play. Jordan Dartis only scored seven points, too, though both were hampered by foul trouble throughout the night.
That left the best, and clearest, option to see the final possession end up in Block's hands.
"Realistically, he had six 3’s in the game, we figured that was a pretty good option," Phillips said. "We just weren’t able to execute it well enough."
The missed opportunities, however, didn't start with the final minute. With the score tied at 58, Akron went on a 9-0 run. The Bobcats were 0-of-5 from the field during that stretch.
The Bobcats then countered with an 8-0 run of their own, which brought the game into Block's hands at the end.
"That’s the last two shots of the game we don’t generate a good shot," Phillips said. "That’s a problem. I’ve got to do a better job of getting us into shots.”
Ohio never led and trailed for nearly 35 minutes, but drew to a tie game four times. It just couldn't find the touch it needed down the stretch. Even the Bobcats best player Tuesday night couldn't get a shot to fall when he needed it to.
The Bobcats had their chances, but as the two final possessions went awry, they couldn't recover in time to salvage what would have been an emotional comeback win on the road against their former coach.
“Down the stretch you’ve got to come together as a team and grind it out," Block said. "The scrappy plays that may not have happened late, but they happened early on in the game. That kinda cost us.”