For much of its season, Ohio seemed near invincible.
Now, the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals loom overhead, and the Bobcats are running short on confidence. They’ve lost four of their last five games, including a three-game losing streak to wrap up MAC play. Conference opponents Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, neither of which qualified for the MAC Tournament, upset Ohio in the final week of the season.
A team that seemed near invincible in conference play a month prior has been brought back down to earth.
There still remains a possibility that Ohio can repeat its remarkable postseason run from last season and become the king of the MAC for a second consecutive year. But it has hit every possible pothole in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Ohio’s first test of the postseason comes when it takes on Ball State inside Rocket Mortgage Field House on Thursday night.
The Cardinals skirted into the MAC Tournament with a losing conference record and are 2-9 against the other seven qualifying teams this season. But a losing conference record didn’t stop Bowling Green or Northern Illinois from giving the Bobcats fits.
Ohio received several blaring wake-up-calls as the regular season wound down. Ball State will send another on Thursday night, and it will be Ohio’s last chance to pick up the phone.
Here’s a final look at Ball State as Ohio prepares for the MAC Tournament quarterfinals:
Opponent: No. 6 seed Ball State
Venue: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Time: 30 minutes following the conclusion of Game 3 of the quarterfinals
Listen: Ohio IMG Sports Network
Live stats: Live stats are provided here.
Meet the opponent
05 Payton Sparks (6-foot-9, 240 pounds)
01 Demarius Jacobs (6-foot-2, 185 pounds)
00 Miryne Thomas (6-foot-8, 200 pounds)
02 Luke Bumbalough (6-foot-1, 180 pounds)
23 Tyler Cochran (6-foot-2, 220 pounds)
Individual statistical leaders
Points: Sparks (13.3 points per game)
Rebounds: Sparks (8.3 rebounds per game)
Assists: Bumbalough (2.8 assists per game)
Field goal percentage: Blake Huggins (80%)
3-point percentage: Kani Acree (55.6%)
Free throw percentage: Acree (85.7%)
Team statistical profile
Points per game: 74.6
Rebounds per game: 35.7
Assists per game: 13.3
Turnovers per game: 14.2
Field goal percentage: 44.5%
3-point percentage: 36.2%
Free throw percentage: 69.7%
Ohio leads the all-time series 52-35 and is 11-2 against Ball State in the last 13 matchups. The two programs last met on Feb. 1, when the Bobcats won 87-63 inside The Convo.
Ball State in the MAC Tournament
The Cardinals are 39-33 in the MAC Tournament, and are tied with the Bobcats for the most MAC titles in program history with seven. The Cardinals are also 7-3 against the Bobcats during the MAC Tournament.
Player to watch
Sparks — There’s little doubt that the MAC Freshman of the Year will make an impact in Thursday’s game. Despite his age, Sparks is one of the biggest men on Ball State’s roster, and he’s worked through his first season with relative ease. In Ohio’s last game against Ball State, the center notched 13 points and 11 rebounds.