Jeff Boals was stressed. With just over six minutes left to play in Ohio’s Saturday home game against Kent State, the Bobcats were down by 10 points and clawing to dig themselves out of the 14-point deficit they had hanging over their heads at halftime.
Suddenly, the Ohio coach heard Kent State coach Rob Senderoff yelling, but not directed toward his players. It was directed at one of Boals’ assistant coaches. In defense of his staff, Boals jumped in and shouted a single, deafening phrase:
“Hey, shut the f*** up!”
Any and all conversations in the Convo evaporated, and the entire court stood in a vacuum. The Bobcats on the court turned wide-eyed toward their bench. One word ran through heads around the Convo— ejection. A pause in the game was called while punishments for both Boals and Senderoff were discussed.
While neither of the head coaches were given the boot, both were reprimanded with technical fouls, and play continued on. The exchange was the explosion of culminated tempers from Ohio’s 89-79 loss to Kent State on Saturday.
“I probably overreacted,“ Boals said from his office after the game. “[Senderoff] was barking at our assistant coach to sit down and said a few choice words to him. I didn't appreciate him talking to our bench, and I overreacted in that situation.”
Ohio entered the second period on a warpath. Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston had both nearly tripled their point totals from before halftime, ending the game with 24 and 23 points, respectively. The Bobcats were 10-for-21 when shooting behind the arc in the second, which was part of a plan to outshoot the Golden Flashes as fast as possible to close the gap.
Kent State matched the Bobcats every step of the way, however, and beat them at their own game. While Ohio tried shooting long to make up for lost time, Kent State got in close and attacked from the key. It paid off. 50 of the Golden Flashes’ 89 points were scored in the paint.
That’s not all. Senderoff and his team took advantage of Ohio’s struggling rebound abilities. The Golden Flashes ended the game with 45 rebounds, lapping Ohio’s 21. The Bobcats rank 10th and 12th in the Mid-American Conference for offensive and defensive rebounds respectively this season, and have dogged themselves for struggling with it recently.
“We’ve just got to rebound, that’s all it is,“ Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas said. “It’s unacceptable. We're not going to win any games with that happening. That’s the only thing, we’ve just got to rebound.”
Ohio has, for all of its struggle, been able to dance with Miami, Ball State and Northern Illinois. It’s not struggling in the MAC, it’s struggling with the top half the MAC, especially on defense. The offense is there, and it’s strong enough to go shot-for-shot with any opponent. What’s left is bringing the defense up to snuff.
Boals knows this, and the players know this. All four of Ohio’s losses in the MAC have been to teams with offenses averaging 79 points per game or more. If Ohio wants to compete with the big dogs, it needs to learn how to muzzle them.