Ohio entered its rematch with Buffalo on Saturday riding high with a six-game winning streak, two of those wins coming earlier in the week over Akron and Eastern Michigan. But as the cliché goes, all good things have an expiration date. Saturday was that date, as the Bobcats were defeated by the Bulls 86-66 in The Convo.
Here are the takeaways from Ohio’s (13-7, 9-5 Mid-American Conference) only loss of the month.
Turnovers aren’t always sweet
To start the game, Ohio matched Buffalo’s energy shot for shot. The two teams are two of the most evenly matched in the conference and it’s likely they’ll see each other in the MAC Tournament. Ohio beat the Bulls in their first meeting 76-75 on Jan.29 and the Bulls clearly made the right adjustments.
Most of those adjustments came on the defense end. The Bulls hurried, pressured and forced the Bobcats to speed its offense up. This ultimately provided Ohio with a huge problem: turnovers.
Ohio had 14 turnovers in the first half compared to Buffalo’s six. The Bulls were able to convert those turnovers into 15 points, contributing to its 52-32 halftime lead.
Mballa is a baller
Buffalo’s Josh Mballa had a decent 14 points when Ohio last faced him in January, it only took a half for the junior from France to eclipse that.
At the half, Mballa had 19 points, three rebounds and three steals. What’s more impressive is that he shot 80 percent from the field. Unfornately for the Bobcats, they weren’t able to key in on Mballa or they faced being stung by Buffalo’s guards Jayvon Graves and David Nickelberry. Mballa finished the game leading all scorers with 23 points but if Ohio faces Buffalo again, its anybody’s guess who the Bulls will run their offense through.
A rough day in the field
Ohio cleaned up the turnovers in the second half but there was nothing it could do about its shooting percentage. The Bobcats shot 37 percent from the field (25-67) on the day. After multiple games of balanced scoring from Ohio, nobody had a good game Saturday. Ben Roderick led the Bobcats with 15 points. But all in all it was just one of those days were you take your lumps and try to come back stronger.
It doesn’t get easier
Ohio will be a team to watch in the MAC Tournament but it’ll be put through the ringer before finally arriving in Cleveland. Next week, the Bobcats travel to Kent State for their highly anticipated rematch. The Golden Flashes trounced Ohio in their first meeting so that game will surely be a tough test. But that might not even be Ohio’s toughest game of the week. The Bobcats then have to travel to Bowling Green to face the Falcons, who’ve won four straight.
Next week will serve as a preview for the gauntlet Ohio will have to go through to win the MAC Tournament. The MAC is one of the most balanced conferences in the country in terms of talent and every game in Cleveland will be tough. It’s better that the Bobcats get used to that now rather than later.