Jordan Dartis caught the ball on the swing pass, and with his feet firmly set on the floor, the fifth-year senior didn’t even blink.
Instead, he snapped his wrist and held his hand in the air like it was caught in a cookie jar. The only sound that followed the collective inhale from the occupants within The Convo was the sound of swish from the net.
And then the roar of the crowd.
It wasn’t his fifth, not his sixth, not his seventh. But his eighth 3-pointer that sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was his eighth 3-pointer that made the bench look like one of the celebrated benches that land on SportsCenter for their outlandish reactions. It was his eighth 3-pointer that was one that helped Ohio edge out its lead against Eastern Michigan.
In the Bobcats’ 74-68 win over the Eagles on Tuesday night, Dartis put on a show that teams in the Mid-American Conference have seen many times before – especially Eastern Michigan.
The Newark native had 26 points on 19 shots and didn’t hesitate when the ball was in his hands. Ohio had to figure out ways to overcome the stout 2-3 zone defense that Eastern Michigan prides itself on.
In the early goings of the game, they struggled, opting for an early rest for point guard Jason Preston and most of the starters while they refocused on the game plan.
It was simple. Swing the ball on the perimeter in order to draw the zone toward the ball. When the look is there, shoot it. And for Dartis, the look was there more often than not.
“I was definitely looking to knock shots down,“ he said. “When the ball is moving like that and my feet are just set, and I have a wide open look, it’s definitely a shot I’ll shoot literally every time.”
And he shot the shots. Right side corner toward the Ohio locker room, swish. In-between the 3-point line and half-court, swish. In transition with two defenders coming for him, swish.
It just didn’t matter for him. He was going to shoot and wear down the defense, and all for a good cause. At halftime only two players, counting Dartis, were in double-digit scoring figures. Take a look at the final box score, and you’ll see that five players had double-digit points.
Dartis’ shooting ability forced the attention toward him and allowed for the rest of the Bobcats to finally get in on the action at hand which came handy down the clutch.
“When teams play zone, he’s going to find the open areas,“ coach Jeff Boals said. “We needed him today.”
Ohio needed Dartis on Tuesday, and they’ll need him Saturday when it plays Bowling Green, and they’ll need him for the other 14 MAC games. His experience is something that no matter how talented this young roster is, it doesn’t have.
Lunden McDay, a true freshman, has started every game he has played in since he’s been at Ohio. Through 15 games, it would already be easy to assume that he’s grown up some. There’s evidence toward that that came from his performance against Eastern Michigan.
His nine points in the first half helped Ohio tremendously. But no points were more so important than his corner 3-pointer that gave the Bobcats a six-point lead with 44 seconds left in the game.
The lack of hesitation to pull up from deep with a hand in your face, but even with that, he’d be the first to tell you he very much doesn’t feel older than what he is.
“I make a lot of freshmen mistakes,“ McDay said. “It’s been nice just learning every game.”
To McDay, a freshman mistake is a careless turnover. Perhaps some not careless, but he had two in part of the team’s 21.
In time, he’ll garner that experience, but as the gauntlet MAC schedule begins, the experience and the leadership from Dartis is going to be relevant and needed. Despite his injuries, he’s looked stronger and better this season. He keeps finding ways to get the shots off that not only he wants, but that the team needs.
He’s been a shooter his whole career, and with his performance against Eastern Michigan, he now sits in second place in program history for most 3-pointers made in a career.
The alum he passed? Ohio legend D.J. Cooper.
With as young as the Bobcats are this year, to have a play mentioned in the same breath as Cooper is something that needs to be fully utilized. And against the Eagles, it was.
A player like Dartis has the ability to keep the fans holding their breath and then wildly exhaling. He has the ability to make the bench go nutty.
He has the ability to win games.