For roughly four weeks, The Convo was nearly empty. Aside from the hundreds of fans and parents, the likes of Jason Preston, Jordan Dartis, Erica Johnson, Amani Burke and others competed in games with impressive shots, passes, dunks and wins.
It wasn’t limited to just Athens, however, as the Bobcats secured another bowl win nearly 2,000 miles away from home.
Let’s start with that.
On Jan. 3, Ohio rang in the new year with a 30-21 victory over Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
In a season that featured many ups and downs, tough losses and growing pains, the Bobcats closed out the season with a three-game win streak and saw what could’ve been a disappointment turn into the fifth consecutive winning season and the third consecutive bowl win – the longest streak in program history.
The Potato Bowl was the last opportunity for the likes of quarterback Nathan Rourke and safety Javon Hagan, among others, to seal their storied careers the way they wanted to.
Rourke was dominant as ever with his dual-threat abilities, particularly in the run game highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown run off a read option play, one he’s done countless times.
Hagan, too, had an impact in the game with a sack in the red zone and a key pass breakup while the Wolf Pack were in the midst of an offensive resurgence near the end of the game.
Along with the bowl win, coach Frank Solich and Ohio reached an agreement on an extension toward his contract. The 75-year old coach will now be at Ohio through the 2021 season.
Peak of potential
On the first week of winter break, the men’s basketball team welcomed perennial high major powerhouse Purdue to The Convo.
In what perhaps would’ve contained a larger crowd had more students been on campus, the game featured only Athens natives and the handful of students that stayed around for various reasons.
Even though the Bobcats lost 69-51 to the Boilermakers, there was a moment where they showed real poise and that the early development of first-year coach Jeff Boals’ program is starting to take place.
Halfway through the second half, Ohio began to inch closer and closer to Purdue. It was down by 20 to its guests, and then surely enough, it forced stops. It made the tough shots. The 5,663 fans in attendance made the atmosphere feel like The Convo was sold out and had standing room only.
At one point, the Bobcats had turned a 20-point hole into just six, and the apparent sense of hope and belief permeated throughout the arena.
Unfortunately, the Boilermakers found responses, and as the game went on, those four to six minutes of sheer belief turned back into reality.
Back in business
If you follow the women’s basketball team on any form of social media, you’ll notice their particular hashtag that’s turned into the team’s mantra this season.
It’s “#UnfinishedBusiness,” which plays toward how the Bobcats felt like they were snubbed from making the NCAA Tournament at the end of the regular season last year. Instead, Mid-American Conference Tournament Champion Buffalo, who beat Ohio in the title game, went along with Central Michigan.
Taking the exclusion personally, the Bobcats played their toughest nonconference schedule in recent memory, and it paid dividends in the MAC opener when they trounced Northern Illinois 87-67.
On Jan. 8, with a slew of injuries and the flu going around, Ohio welcomed Central Michigan in matchup of conference heavyweights. The 73-71 loss wasn’t ideal for the Bobcats in the early goings of MAC play, but to only lose by two when dealing with the issues they were deserves the credit of the blunt statement below.
The MAC is Ohio’s league to lose.
Career night but trouble ahead
Over the course of five years, Ohio and its fans alike have grown accustomed to seeing No. 35 pull up from the 3-point-arc, and with a certain swagger, drain the shot like it’s nothing.
Jordan Dartis has shot and made many 3-pointers in his career but none more important than perhaps the eight he made against Eastern Michigan on Jan. 7.
The redshirt senior led the charge for Ohio in its 74-68 win over the Eagles and showed that he’s got what it takes to carry the team when he’s needed. That kind of performance shouldn’t be expected every time, however, since he went 0-for-5 against Buffalo on Tuesday in a tight 76-73 loss.
It seemed inevitable for the club ice hockey team that once it went to overtime against league rival Illinois on Jan. 10, it would head into the locker room disappointed.
In overtime and shootout games this season, the Bobcats are 2-3. But that second win came against the Illini after senior winger Tyler Harkins scored both the game winner and his third of the night as they won 3-2.
The next night, the senior scored two more goals, and Ohio swept Illinois to start off the new decade.