Let’s start off with the good.
Ohio has two wins under its belt in the Mid-American Conference schedule. Granted, those two wins have been against Eastern Michigan, who is currently 1-7. They’ve been somewhat impressive wins, one where redshirt senior Jordan Dartis rattled off eight 3-pointers, and the second was a come-from-behind win in Ypsilanti.
Other than that, it’s been a rough go-around for first-year coach Jeff Boals and his talented, but inexperienced team.
The Bobcats (10-12, 2-7 MAC) have lost three conference games by nine points. In two of their seven conference losses, they had the lead at halftime, and then Bowling Green and Buffalo scored 50-plus points in the second half.
What’s been the cause of it all? In the midst of a four-game losing streak, Ohio has shown flashes that it can compete with the teams in the conference.
Against Akron on Jan. 25, Ohio was down at halftime by 16. Multiple runs throughout the second half and a with an opportunity to win the game with 0.8 seconds left, Jason Preston stepped out of bounds to end the game.
Another two-point loss followed against Northern Illinois, and the most recent one was a nine-point loss to Ball State.
All season long, the program has preached consistency. And at the moment, its greatest consistency has been its inconsistency.
There’s a pass, however. The team has Boals in his first year trying to figure out how to navigate in the MAC as a coach. While Boals tries to figure out how to navigate through that, he also has to worry about developing seven freshmen, and make sure that his best players – Preston, Dartis and Ben Vander Plas — are getting both the appropriate workload and develop in their own right.
“It’s part of the growth,” Boals said.
It certainly is part of the growth. And the growing pains have been noticeable. The frustrations are evident in the voices after the games, the hung-faces and the forced optimism.
There have been plenty of lessons learned over the course of the last month and change. It’s showing, too. Smarter passes are being made. There’s been better shot selection, and aside from a few foul issues, the only difference really has been the fact that teams are more talented and experienced than Ohio.
Which is all the more why it’s been impressive for the Bobcats to be in the games they’ve been.
If you take a look at the remaining nine games the Bobcats have, they’re against teams that are a combined 93-57. While it looks bleak merely based off recent success, it has two games against Miami (9-12) and a rematch against Western Michigan (9-12).
Can there be more good notes at the end of this nine-game stretch? Only time is the dictator of that. It will ultimately have more struggles as it really is a growing year for players, coaches and the program alike.
But even with that, the optimism that once was there just after the slim loss to Akron shouldn’t be completely vanquished. There are nine games and at least one postseason game in the conference tournament to turn those lessons into concrete milestones for a program which wasn’t given much expectation in the beginning of the season by the league’s coaches.
Regardless, the skid is possible to stop. Is it probable? Only they can defy those odds.