While the Bobcats walked off The Convo court in defeat for the first time this season Wednesday night, no pep talk was waiting for them.
All the joy of a 12-game winning streak had evaporated. A rousing speech from coach Bob Boldon about being proud and creating history could have been nice, but Boldon wanted his team to suffer.
“I don’t care if they get too low,” Boldon said. “I would hope they feel miserable right now.”
Ohio (12-1, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) was miserable after getting out played the entire game in an 88-70 loss to Central Michigan. The Bobcats have lost their last five meetings against the Chippewas, and Wednesday night proved that undefeated or not, Ohio still isn’t on par with Central Michigan (11-3, 2-0).
And that’s a problem if the Bobcats hope to win the MAC.
“We’re in the conversation but we’re just not good enough yet,” Boldon said. “We need to get tougher and we need to get better.”
Toughness will be key for Ohio moving forward, especially pertaining to rebounding. Ohio’s worst defeat was in the rebounding section of the stat sheet. Central Michigan held a 51-22 advantage and turned it into 15 critical second-chance points.
But that was one of many issues Ohio had to deal with.
For the first time this season, a recurring problem from last season resurfaced: Defenses lagging off Ohio’s shooters and forcing the Bobcats to make the open shot.
Sophomore point guard Cece Hooks dealt with it all last year, and she was the first victim this year. Hooks — who has worked hard on her 3-point shooting — seemed uncomfortable in the first half when Central Michigan dared her to shoot 3-pointers. It didn’t help her confidence that she missed all three attempts.
“I knew they were going to sag off me,” Hooks said “I didn’t make any, but I was ready.”
Knowing what’s coming is a motif in conference play. Common opponents are predictable. Sometimes it’s a positive, while other times it’s a sign of a long night to come.
Central Michigan’s Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson made sure it was the longest night of the season for Ohio. They combined for 47 of the Chippewas’ points, and individually, Frost had 17 rebounds, while Hudson went 5-of-11 from 3-point range.
“I’ve never played against a person like that,” Hooks said of Hudson. “Off the ball, pulling up, step back, it’s really fun playing against her and I’m learning because it’s making me better.”
It may have been fun to play against elite competition, but for the Bobcats, there’s no fun in losing. So now comes the question of what’s next.
Ohio is currently 1-1 in the MAC. The message is clear: winning in the MAC is hard, and with a road trip to Ball State just days away, Ohio needs to move on if it hopes to stay in the race for the MAC championship.
But recovering after their first loss of the season won’t be easy.
“You can’t just forget about it,” senior forward Dominique Doseck said. “You have to take the knowledge of what went wrong and fix it. But we can’t let this loss create a spiral.”
Ohio wasn’t given any favors when it was scheduled to face the top two teams in the conference to start MAC play.
The historic streak has come to an end. MAC play is tough, and all that matters is the conference record. Ohio’s start was incredible, but that won’t matter if its finish is lackluster.