OXFORD — Jason Carter soared through the air, right hand cocked back with the basketball, ready to pulverize a defender on his way to a highlight-worthy dunk.
But as he began to bring the ball to its high point, Miami’s Precious Ayah challenged him at the rim. Ayah won the battle; he blocked the dunk attempt, and Carter jogged to the other end of the floor, visibly depleted as the crowd in Millett Hall roared at the sight of his failed dunk.
That was the low point for the Bobcats on Saturday afternoon in their 79-59 loss to the RedHawks. With a full week to prepare, Ohio still couldn’t provide answers for previous losses, and now, it’s looking for any reason to smile after their latest gaff of a three-game losing streak.
“Right now, that’s what we need is smiles,” Carter said. “It’s been a rough couple games and a rough stretch for us. Right now, we just need that confidence and that smile and that outlook that everything is going to be all right.”
The Bobcats shot 35.6 percent from the floor and 52.4 percent from the free-throw line. Carter and Teyvion Kirk were the only two starters to score in double figures. The other three starters, Doug Taylor, Gavin Block and Antonio Cowart, combined to score six points.
But it doesn’t end with the offense. Coach Saul Phillips prides himself on his team’s defensive effort. Ohio wasn’t crisp defensively, though. The Bobcats gave up 47 points in the first half and dug themselves into a hole they couldn’t climb from.
After a week off, it wasn’t supposed to look like this.
“We’re grasping to find answers for that right now,” Phillips said.
It nearly didn’t look gloomy. The Bobcats were down 20 at halftime, but they stormed back in the opening minutes of the second half and cut the RedHawks’ lead to six. They had the momentum on the road, and Miami coach Jack Owens was forced to call a timeout.
It paid off. Miami went on a 9-0 run to push the lead back to 15, and Ohio was out of gas.
“When we miss a few shots, it’s just affecting us way too much right now to the point where it just kills our energy on both sides,” Carter said. “That’s the main thing right now. We just have to make shots, and we just have to come tomorrow and work on it.”
As the Bobcats scramble through a final few weeks of the regular season, they’ll continue to search for offensive and defensive answers. They’ll have a chance Tuesday night at home against Eastern Michigan.
In the meantime, this is the reality of Ohio basketball: Saul Phillips’ contract is expiring, the Bobcats are in their worst stretch of the season and any chance Ohio is going to find to smile, it’s going to take advantage.
But first, the Bobcats will have to find a reason.