Coach Jeff Boals considers Ohio’s first loss in the Mid-American Conference to be a learning experience.
It’d been almost two months since the Bobcats suffered their last defeat. Over that time, they’d built up a nine-game winning streak and had positioned themselves atop the conference standings. They’d had close calls before, but the Bobcats managed to pull through time and time again.
But in its 87-69 loss to Toledo on Friday night, Ohio’s luck ran out. Toledo dominated from nearly start to finish, and Ohio found itself outmanned and outgunned by one of, if not the best team in the MAC.
“We really haven’t been dominated like that for a full game,“ Boals said. “I think if we look at all our games, we led for the majority of the games.”
The Bobcats (14-3, 5-1 MAC) led once — for all of 19 seconds — after Jason Carter knocked down a 3-pointer three minutes into the game. They spent the remainder of Friday night limping behind the Rockets’ (15-4, 7-1 MAC) precise shooting and consistent scoring runs.
Their subpar performance from 3-point range only exacerbated the problem. In the first half, the Bobcats shot 20% from beyond the arc and over half of their field goal attempts were from deep. They’d been flourishing up close, shooting 9-of-13 from inside the arc, but an over-reliance on long-range shots resulted in a 16-point deficit come halftime.
Ohio made three 3-pointers in the first half. Toledo made three 3-pointers in the first seven minutes.
“We settled on some shots,“ Boals said. “I think 15 of our 28 shots were 3s in the first half, which is way too many. And we were 9-of-13 from 2, so we made some adjustments to talk about at halftime. I thought in the first, maybe, 13-14 minutes of the second half we did what we wanted to do.”
The Bobcats tried to rework their game plan at the break. They scaled back on 3-pointers and tried to fight the Rockets in the paint. It worked. The Bobcats shaved their deficit down to six points, and the whisper of 8,069 fans inside The Convo slowly crescendoed into a deafening roar.
But the adjustments were too little, too late.
Ohio was worn down. Fatigue had set in, and its rally fell silent faster than it came about. Toledo closed the game with a six-minute, 16-4 run.
“No matter how good you play in the second half, digging yourself out of a 16-point hole is a little difficult,“ Ben Vander Plas said. “It’s hard to win games when you end a first half like that.”
Ohio hadn’t lost in almost two months before Friday. While on its nine-game win streak, it’d become one of the most feared teams in the MAC and secured wins even on off nights.
But Toledo didn’t care about Ohio’s win streak. It waltzed into The Convo and kicked Ohio around on its own turf. Ohio limped into halftime trailing by double digits and ran itself ragged trying to force itself back into the lead. Now, Ohio is without a win streak and forked over its first-place standing in the MAC.
If Ohio wants to learn, Friday’s loss is the place to start.