CLEVELAND — Ohio's season wasn't supposed to end like this.
For much of the regular season, the Bobcats were considered one of the teams most likely to reach the Mid-American Conference Tournament finals. An appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in two years wasn’t out of the question while the Bobcats cruised through their season.
But when Kent State stood between it and another chance at a MAC title, Ohio couldn’t get over the hump. Despite a late rally to bring the game within two points, the Bobcats were overrun by the Golden Flashes 67-61 inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Friday night.
Here are the fast reactions to Ohio’s heartbreaking, season-ending loss to Kent State:
Hard to crack Kent State
The Golden Flashes boasted one of the best defenses in the conference during the regular season. The Bobcats learned that from experience after being nearly shut out from the field when they visited the MAC Center in mid-February. When the two programs met on the floor of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Bobcats received another lesson.
Kent State shoved Ohio around on the court. Its taught defense didn't let up on Friday, and it resulted in multiple dry spells for Ohio. A seven-minute scoring drought was only broken when Ben Vander Plas put up a layup with five minutes remaining in the first half.
3s not landing early
From tipoff, Ohio relied on the 3-ball to keep its offense alive. In the minutes after tipoff, Ohio shook Kent State and drilled shots from deep to take a slim, but firm lead.
But Kent State put a cork in that luck.
Ohio bricked its final seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. It didn't sink another 3-pointer until midway through the second half. What started as a strong night beyond the arc ended in shots clanging off the rim. Ohio picked up the pace with a rally late in the second half, but it struggled for much of the game to find consistency beyond the arc.
The Bobcats had been considered contenders for the MAC Tournament finals while they tore through their regular season schedule. But the Bobcats haven’t been the same since being subjected to a demanding February schedule. Fatigue set in as the season wound down.
Kent State played on that fatigue.
The Bobcats reached new heights this season. They went toe-to-toe with high-caliber teams during their nonconference schedule and set the program record for the best start through 22 games. But those weren’t enough. The Bobcats will be returning to Athens empty handed after coming close to a second consecutive MAC Tournament finals appearance.