It was a somber scene for Ohio after Saturday’s 59-50 loss to Kent State. Tears were shed as the players believed that their season, and the careers of one of Ohio’s most decorated senior classes, was at an end.
Ohio coach Bob Boldon, however, was aware that that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“I knew that there were some scenarios in which that was the case (making the Mid-American Conference tournament despite losing to Kent State),” Boldon said. “I didn’t share that information with anybody else, we approached that game as if we didn’t win, we were eliminated.”
Ohio’s players thought their season was over after Saturday’s loss and went their separate ways for spring break. Boldon was spending some time with his family and some players had gone with their families to get ready for a week off to decompress after a tough season.
But, that only lasted so long.
Roughly two hours after the game had ended, the MAC released the tournament bracket — and Ohio was in. Thanks to losses by Bowling Green and Western Michigan and some complicated tiebreakers that are explained here.
Boldon made sure to confirm that the Bobcats had qualified, and then he notified the players about the change of plans.
And so a team that had just — at least so they thought — played together for the last time, reconvened in Athens the next day to get some shots up and go over the schedule for the MAC tournament.
As expected, there was a sense of excitement and relief from the Bobcats as they met on Sunday to talk about something that they believed had slipped out of their grasp.
Ohio’s season had been given new life, but standing in its way was the MAC’s 2021-22 juggernaut: Toledo.
Toledo captured the conference’s top seed with a 19-1 record in MAC play. That one loss, however, was to Ohio at Savage Arena on Jan. 26. If there is one thing we know about Ohio, it’s that it is not scared of the MAC’s current powerhouse.
The Bobcats not only handed the Rockets their only conference loss, but also gave them all they could handle in the second matchup of the season, a three-point Rockets win at The Convo that tied their lowest margin of victory in conference play.
Ohio has struggled with inconsistency this season, but it was regularly able to give the top teams in the conference its best shot.
“We are a good team,” Boldon said. “We just haven’t been able to be good on a regular basis. We beat Toledo, Buffalo, Akron, those are the top three teams (in the MAC).”
Ohio will have to hope its trend of playing its best against its strongest opponents continues. But if it does, Ohio still has a shot at winning the MAC tournament for the first time since 2015.
After the roller-coaster of Saturday afternoon, the Bobcats regrouped and now have the opportunity to take advantage of a second chance they didn’t think they would have.