The Bobcats aren’t tired yet.
They’re tired of losing, of course, but they’re not as physically and mentally taxed as one might think, given their short bench, carousel of injuries and growing string of losses.
“The guys that actually go out there and do play, I feel like physically and mentally we’re kind of refreshed after the last game,” forward Doug Taylor said ahead of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. matchup against Akron at The Convo.
Ohio didn’t look refreshed Saturday in the moments after a 101-98 double-overtime loss. The players looked drained.
With every passing game — of which Ohio (9-13, 2-8 Mid-American Conference) has dropped seven of its past eight — the team is searching for a tide-turning win. Watching a near-victory slip away had been disheartening.
The Bobcats went back to practice the next day, although it was essentially a “practice in the film room,” as Taylor put it, paired with a heavy emphasis on free-throw shooting — something that had cost them steeply in the loss.
On film, Ohio saw a reason to be positive looking ahead to its upcoming matchup with the Zips. Saturday’s loss had featured season highs in points and assists, meaning the Bobcats were finding ways to move the ball effectively and create scoring chances.
Having guard Jordan Dartis back Tuesday against Akron is certainly a bright spot, too. He left last Tuesday against Bowling Green after he fell awkwardly on a drive and re-injured his hip, which forced him to miss Saturday’s game.
Coach Saul Phillips was encouraged to see Dartis out in full force for Monday’s practice, making sharp cuts while dribbling and sprinting down the court for defense.
“His hip is feeling better than it has in a while,” said Phillips, who expects Dartis to play Tuesday. “For him to come in and say, ‘Not only do I want to practice today, but I want to do everything today,’ that’s the first time he’s been able to utter those sentences in quite a while.”
Tuesday’s game pits two spiraling teams against each other. While Ohio is the coldest in the conference, Akron isn’t far behind. The Zips (10-12, 3-7 MAC) beat Ohio two weeks ago but have since lost three straight, including the past two by 15 or more.
Ohio may need to pay extra attention to Akron guard Jimond Ivey, who burned the Bobcats for 15 second-half points when the teams last met. Ivey scored 48 against Ball State four days later and is averaging 17.5 points per game since Christmas.
Offensively, however, the Bobcats feel they’ve gained some footing. The presumptive return of Dartis, as well as a productive film session, presents reason to believe that’s true.
Phillips does not take his team’s recent rut lightly. But showing his players video evidence of what they can do in an effective offensive scheme offers a chance to refresh and reset as they work to emerge from the bottom of the MAC standings.
“You have to address your issues and why you lost the game, and you have to be a man and realize what your shortcomings were,” he said. “But at the same time, you can’t just go blanket negative on them at this point. Guys don’t like losing anymore than I do.”