Doug Taylor stood in front of the Ohio bench yelling and pumping up his hands.
The senior forward had just hammered down an ally-oop from Jason Preston, extending Ohio’s lead further. As the bench exploded and coach Saul Phillips ran over to celebrate with Taylor, all seemed right for Ohio.
On Saturday afternoon at James A. Rhodes Arena, the Bobcats dismantled rival Akron, 73-49. Behind Taylor’s dunk, a stellar day of shooting and gritty defense, Ohio was able to win its second game in its last three.
“The whole point of playing is to win,” he said. “People say it’s to have fun, but nobody has fun losing.”
Standing outside of the locker room after the win, it was hard for Taylor to stop smiling.
A month ago, he and his teammates were struggling to find words to describe the Bobcats’ latest blunder, a loss to Akron in The Convo on its 50th birthday celebration. On Feb. 2, the•Zips were the more athletic team who found easy shots and defended well.
On Saturday, roles were flipped.
The Bobcats controlled the pace of the game and minimized turnovers. Teyvion Kirk and Jason Preston ran the offense as experienced veterans would, much different than Tuesday’s loss to Kent State.
For Taylor, who scored just six points in the first meeting, Saturday was a relief. It was the first time Ohio’s won a game at Akron in the Phillips era. Most importantly, the Bobcats looked explosive on both sides of the ball.
Ohio shot 45.6 percent from the floor and held the Zips to under 50 points. It’s the first time this season that the Bobcats held an opponent to under 50 points.
Taylor thrived in Saturday’s game. After working to lose weight this past summer, he had complete control of the paint, pushing around Akron big man Deng Riak at his will. The dunk contributed to his 14 points and seven rebounds. The most impressive part of his game came from the free-throw line as he sank 8-of-9.
Late in the second half, Taylor picked up a technical foul for stepping over Riak. It was an ode to Taylor’s ultra-competitive personality, but after the thrashing the Zips put on Ohio a month ago, it was a fitting end to his day in Akron.
“I was just out there having fun,” he said. “We all have a chip on our shoulder.”
Taylor’s aware that the clock on his playing career at Ohio decreases by the day.
He thinks of it all the time, from walking to practice to watching film of an upcoming opponent. With two games remaining, the Bobcats are starting to find a rhythm at the right time.
Saturday was their first road win since Jan. 12. The first win in Akron since 2014 and the first time since the New Year that Ohio looked like a team opponents didn’t want to play.
It’s hard to forget about the near month of losing, but for Taylor, there’s not much time to reflect.
For now, he’ll soak in the win with his teammates and friends. He’ll hope his dunk ends up on SportsCenter’s Top 10. Above all else, he’ll hope that Saturday wasn’t another anomaly of the season.
“Just try to treat it like any other part of my career, and just see it as a chance to win a championship,” Taylor said.