Moments before the Bobcats were set to host Mid-American Conference favorite Bowling Green, Ohio’s star guard Jason Preston walked onto the court. The only problem was he was in street clothes.
Without its best scorer and playmaker, Ohio had to find a way to keep pace with the Falcons and the MAC’s leading scorer, Justin Turner, or risk a third consecutive loss.
Despite breakout performances from underclassmen Ben Roderick, Lunden McDay and Mark Sears, Ohio was unable to hold off a second half surge from Bowling Green and fell to the Falcons 83-75 Wednesday afternoon at The Convo.
Dwight Wilson III led the Bobcats with 20 points, but Roderick (16 points) McDay (11 points) and Sears (nine points) were the biggest highlights of the loss. Ohio’s collection of young talent shined on Wednesday, and with Preston’s injury being described as “day-to-day,” they may have to continue to step up.
“The guys that were in there were battling and competing,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “When you’re competing and playing hard in practice, those are the guys we want in the game.”
With the loss, Ohio (4-4, 0-2 MAC) suffered its third defeat in a row. It’s unknown what the Bobcats’ record could be without the cancelations of two home games and schedule reshuffling that pitted the Bobcats with two of the conferences best so early in MAC play.
“The past couple games, our effort and intensity was not there at all,” Roderick said. “We really wanted to come out today and show our toughness and our energy.”
Like the year before, Ohio’s energy came through in the first half. The Bobcats shot 47.1% from 3-point range and were led by the confidence of Roderick. At the half, he led all scorers with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
“I get up shots everyday,” Roderick said. “It’s just something that repetition is starting to show up in games...being able to shoot the ball has really helped the team, so I’m just going to continue to do so.”
Roderick wasn’t the only young guy to step up in the first half. Mark Sears took on the challenge of guarding Turner multiple times in his first career start. Every time the two squared off, Boals, Preston and the rest of the Bobcats bench rose to their feet. With the Bobcats leading 42-32 heading into the locker room, Turner had only two points on 0-for-5 shooting.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Ohio would not be able to hold the Falcons in the second half.
Ohio was outscored by Bowling Green 51- 33 in the second half thanks to a huge difference at the free throw line. Bowling Green had a whopping 38 attempts compared to the Bobcats’ 12, and Boals believes not being able to keep the Falcons off the line was the main reason why Bowling Green was able to come back.
“When you play the really good teams and they’re getting to the free throw line every touch foul, you have to get a stop, and when that rebound comes to you, you have to find a way to come up with that 50/50 ball.”
Ohio was outrebounded by Bowling Green 38-31. A few of those rebounds hurt Ohio most late in the game. Despite jumping out to an early lead, Ohio couldn’t stop the Falcons when it mattered most.
The Bobcats will now turn its sights to Ball State on Jan. 2. Ohio lost its last meeting against the Cardinals 65-54 last season in Muncie.