KENT — Jeff Boals saw the writing on the wall. He knew heading into the second timeout of the game that Ohio's loss to Kent State was inevitable.
Boals figured the Bobcats would have trouble in their 75-52 loss to the Golden Flashes on Friday night. Four of Ohio's losses this season came on the road, and Kent State had won its last seven games. Ohio was still reeling from a grueling February schedule, and starting forward Jason Carter had just returned to the lineup following a lower leg injury.
The Bobcats knew they were bound to struggle, but they didn't expect to miss their first 13 field goal attempts of the night and shoot 8% from the field before halftime.
"That was the game," Boals said. "The way they guard is they were really selling out, collapsing in the paint and collapsing in the post entries. I think we were 2-for-25 and 0-for-15. I thought we got some good looks. (We) didn't make them, and when you don't make those, they're gonna keep doing it."
Ohio was a non-entity on the court after tipoff. There wasn't a spot on the court it could shoot from. Nothing connected. Not layups, not mid-range jumpers and nothing from beyond the arc grazed the net. The pair of field goals Ohio put up after 11 agonizing minutes were all it mustered for the remainder of the half.
Ohio's first half performance was an exercise in futility interspersed with the occasional free throw.
Ohio figured it stood a chance before Friday. It had clambered back to the top of the Mid-American Conference standings and had survived a tumultuous schedule in which it often had one day to recover between games.
But the Golden Flashes didn't offer any respite. They harassed the Bobcats with laser precision from beyond the arc and dominated in the lane. The Golden Flashes played by their own pace and ran the Bobcats off the floor before the break.
"It's a game on the road, there's not a lot of people that are gonna win in here," Boals said. "They've been playing really good. This is probably the first time all year that we didn't respond to someone else's energy and intensity level, knowing what's at stake."
There was little the Bobcats could do to salvage the loss. Erasing a 30-point deficit in the second half is a feat in and of itself, but recovering from making two field goals before halftime is near impossible. What little resurgence they conjured up in the second half didn't bring them any closer to a comeback. The Bobcats never came closer than after Jason Carter scored off of a turnover to shave the deficit to 21 points. Their shooting improved after halftime, but a subpar performance was bound to stand out after a disastrous first half.
"I'm really proud of our guys' response coming back out in the second half," Boals said. "The energy level was a lot better, intensity levels a lot better, but you've got to be there for 40 minutes in a game like this."
Ohio's taken losses on the chin before. All of its previous four losses have been by 15 points or more, and they've all come from teams near the top of their conferences or from powerhouse programs. After those losses, Ohio recouped and went back to dominating its regular season schedule.
But Friday was different. Ohio never competed with Kent State. It didn't score enough to pose a threat, and its shooting was too poor to stay neck-and-neck before halftime like it had against teams like Toledo or then-No. 13 Kentucky.
Ohio tripped at tipoff and face-planted into a loss it will be eager to move past.