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OU guard Mark Sears (1) dribbles around Toledo University in The Convo on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Men's Basketball: Ohio succumbs to fatigue in loss to Toledo

TOLEDO — Ohio learned the hard way who the team to beat in the Mid-American Conference is.

Toledo gave it a crash course.

The Bobcats were chomping at the bit for a rematch with the Rockets. They'd been humiliated when the Rockets dismantled them in The Convo in late January. After suffering their first loss in the MAC, the Bobcats rebuilt and steamrolled through a grueling three-game, five-day schedule to retake their spot at the top of the conference standings.

But time — and fatigue — came knocking. Ohio fizzled out and didn't have enough energy to power through a 77-62 loss to Toledo inside Savage Arena on Tuesday night.

"Everyone's got a tough matchup," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "They do some things different than everyone else does. They switch everything. They've got pretty good length and size. We've got to be better. I think game four in eight days had a lot to do with it, but give them credit."

The Rockets seemed destined to pull ahead. They've done so in every regular season matchup for the past six years. The Bobcats have finagled upsets in the postseason, sure, but wins in the MAC Tournament don't offer much respite in early February.

The Bobcats hadn't easily fallen behind, though. They stayed in lockstep with the Rockets out of the gate, trading field goals and even pulling into the lead twice after Jason Carter and Mark Sears each sank a 3-pointer. For the first 10 minutes, Ohio showed it could go blow-for-blow with one of the most versatile offenses in the MAC.

It wasn't meant to last.

Ohio was worn out, and its shooting percentage dropped off a cliff. It went 11-of-38 from the field and couldn't couldn't string together more than two consecutive field goals after halftime. Easy layups failed to follow through, and 3s bounced off the rim. Ohio even flubbed at the free throw line, and Toledo took advantage of its poor shooting. Ohio was out-rebounded 47-26, and its mistakes only added to its growing deficit.

"I don't know how many layups we missed, but it was a lot," Boals said. "When you miss those free throws and those layups and they turn them into easy baskets, that's where you get in trouble."

The few attempts to rally didn't bring Ohio any closer to regaining the lead. Toledo closed the first half with an 18-4 run, and Ohio worked after halftime to dig itself out of a double-digit hole. Tommy Schmock, who led Ohio with 17 points, narrowed the gap after scoring eight points in two minutes, but the Bobcats whiffed on their final seven field goal attempts of the night.

"This isn't a team you want to go trade buckets with," Schmock said. "They are the best scoring team. They score 80 a night, so we just need to get stops and get on built runs. I don't think we ever really got a run. We were just playing even, and then it kind of got down."

Ohio is back to where it started two-and-a-half weeks ago. Toledo blew apart its five-game win streak and pulled it back down to second place in the MAC standings. It was only a matter of time. Ohio's played four games in eight days, and it was bound to crash. Ohio dominated every other conference opponent this season, but it has been stumped twice by Toledo. Its biggest roadblock has been a team it hasn't beaten in the regular season since 2016.

Its schedule isn't lightening up, either. It still has two more games in the next five days. With the regular season winding down and the MAC Tournament looming on the horizon, Ohio doesn't have much time to step back and reflect on Tuesday's loss.

But now it knows who the team to beat is.


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