Saul Phillips walked through the line of fans, giving a few high fives and trying to smile.
Minutes before, Gavin Block missed a three quarter-court shot to send the game to overtime, but all that was left to show from the near upset of No. 19 Buffalo was a slew of defeated faces.
Block crouched down and stared at the floor, almost punching air. Torrey James sat on the floor as Doug Taylor walked to Jason Preston and Teyvion Kirk to find comfort after the loss.
On Tuesday night in The Convo, Ohio saw its best opportunity of the season slip away, falling 82-79 to the Bulls. And for the first time this season, it seemed that the Bobcats’ best just wasn’t good enough against the Mid-American Conference’s best.
“A loss is a loss,” Phillips said.
In the first meeting of the season between the two teams, Ohio lost by 47 points, the program’s worst loss in over 20 years.
Buffalo hit 19 3s that night in Amherst, New York. In The Convo on Tuesday, the Bobcats held them to 15 and made sure the 3s weren’t the opportunity for it to rout them again.
Instead, Ohio scored 54 points in the paint. Doug Taylor continues to show growth in the last stretch of his career, and against the Bulls was no different, as he set a career-high with 20 points. He scored on pick and rolls and back door cuts throughout the night. Buffalo’s Nick Perkins called him one of the most undervalued big man in the MAC after the game, not long after Taylor went blow for blow with Perkins in the paint.
For much of the last month and a half, Ohio’s bench production has been thin since the injury of James Gollon. While big games from Gavin Block and Ben Vander Plas have been helpful, one of the consistent players has been Connor Murrell. The freshman forward showed his worth, from a two-handed dunk to driving down the lane and drawing contact. He had a lot to do with the Bobcats sticking with a top-ranked team the entire game.
It wasn’t only Taylor and Murrell that propelled Ohio to near victory, Jason Carter still had a quiet 15 points and Teyvion Kirk finished with 17, making sure that every shot counted.
Tuesday night, the Bulls played against a team that’s grown since the Feb. 19 beat down.
But still, Ohio’s best wasn’t.
“It’s a little deflating going out there playing your hear out and come out with a loss,” Taylor said.
After the line of hand shakes and small smiles, Phillips held his press conference.
With not much to say, the fifth-year coach didn’t care much that Ohio possibly played its best game of the season. That Taylor was playing his best basketball at the right time or that the Bobcats will now play on the road in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
With one regular season game remaining in The Convo on Friday, Phillips and the Bobcats are only guaranteed two more games. While the past two weeks have been fun, with wins more frequent than the months before, there was momentum headed into Tuesday.
That didn’t seem to matter much after loss.
“We were three points short,” Phillps said.
In March, near upsets are forgotten and actual upsets are remembered, no matter how well the team that tried played.