LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jeff Boals can pinpoint the exact two-minute window in which Ohio’s chances of defeating No. 13 Kentucky fell out of reach.
The third-year coach listed a number of reasons why the Bobcats came up short in their 77-59 loss to the Wildcats. Fatigue, stalwart defense by the Wildcats and rebounding issues were all mentioned during his post-game press conference.
But those were just factors. Boals said it all culminated in a two-minute stretch midway through the second half, during which Kentucky went on a 9-0 run.
It wasn’t the first run Kentucky went on that night, nor was it the highest-scoring run. But it was the precise moment Ohio fell into a hole it never climbed out of.
“The 13-minute mark in the second half, it’s a tie game,“ Boals said. “But the difference was going from 13:30 to 11:11. They went on a 9-0 run. I thought that was the game right there, and then they created separation in the next two four-minute wars.”
Ohio (3-1) kept pace for the first half. It garnered a slim lead behind precise shooting and maintained that lead for the first 12 minutes of the game. Ben Vander Plas nailed three 3-pointers in the first half, and each one brought the roar of 19,045 fans inside Rupp Arena down to a murmur. Jason Carter leaned into his role as Ohio’s big man and fought Kentucky (3-1) in the paint. Ohio clawed its way to trail the No. 13 team in the nation by just two points at the break.
But the Bobcats ran out of gas.
Their shooting percentage dipped after halftime. The Bobcats were 9-of-27 from the field, and none of them scored more than six points in the second half. What started out as a strong night for shooting ended in multiple scoring droughts. Mark Sears, who’d scored 10 points in the first half, didn’t make a single field goal after halftime.
Kentucky surged while Ohio failed to sink more than two field goals in a row.
“I think we got some good looks. We just didn't hit them,“ Boals said. “You can't simulate their length and athleticism. But I thought the switching and what they did slowed us down from a pace and space standpoint. I think it's a mixture of fatigue, what they did to us defensively. But without looking at the second half, I was happy with some of the looks we got.”
The lopsided rebound battle didn’t help their case. The Bobcats were cooked on the glass. The Wildcats averaged 42.7 rebounds per game ahead of Friday night, and they rubbed that stat in the Bobcats’ faces. By the end of the game, the Bobcats had been outrebounded 53-17.
Ohio scored 21 points in the second half. Kentucky scored 19 points just off rebounds.
“Obviously, 53-17, you’re not going to win a lot of games,“ Vander Plas said. “We just weren't getting them. They were. They were turning into kickout 3s and easy buckets, and we’ve got to get more if we want to win a game like that.”
The Bobcats cruised through their first three games of the season with victories by double-digit margins. But their hot start was bound to burn out sooner or later. The Wildcats snatched the lead in the second half while the Bobcats slowed to a halt.
All it took was two minutes.