Ohio has opened Mid-American Conference play with a gauntlet of a schedule. Through four conference games, it has taken on four of the MAC’s top five teams.
After losing a 70-65 heartbreaker to Kent State (14-3, 4-0 MAC) Friday night, Ohio (9-8) is now 1-3 in conference play, but a theme is quickly emerging.
The Bobcats three conference losses have come by a total of 17 points, and their win was by only five. The Bobcats have played the best teams in the conference, and they have played them extremely tough. However, most of their efforts have not been enough.
Even though Kent State is the best team in the MAC on paper by some margin, Friday’s loss was the most painful for Ohio so far.
The Bobcats led by one point at halftime, and did a good job of limiting the Golden Flashes high-powered offense. They held them to just 42.9% from the field and 33.3% from the 3-point line, both below their season average.
In particular, Ohio was able to limit reigning MAC Player of the Year Sincere Carry. He had just 11 points, one of his lowest totals of the year.
While Ohio was mostly able to limit Kent State’s best player, the Flashes were unable to return the favor, as Dwight Wilson III went off for a career-high 27 points, 21 in the first half, and nine rebounds.
Wilson showed once again Friday that there is no one in the MAC who can handle him inside. Through four conference games, he is averaging 18.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in MAC play.
One of Wilson’s most important features is his ability to pass out of the post when his domination leads to double teams, but Ohio was unable to take advantage of that Friday.
“He was a man in there,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “We knew in the second half they were going to change up what they were doing, and for the most part, we got the ball out where we wanted to. When teams double team him, we’ve got to capitalize, and we didn’t do that.”
Ultimately, Ohio’s loss Friday boils down to two things.
First, the Bobcats shot just 2-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half, and as a result, were unable to take advantage of an uncharacteristically poor half from the Flashes. The Bobcats led by one at the half, but it could have been a lot more if they had knocked down some timely threes.
“We’ve been shooting the ball pretty well,” Boals said. “We knew what spots we had to get to and I’d guess that out of the 25 threes, a lot of those were really good looks.”
The second, and much more important factor, was a 17-3 Kent State run in the middle of the second half that turned a three-point lead into a 12-point deficit for Ohio. The run featured four Ohio turnovers, which was a problem all night, as Ohio committed 16 total turnovers for 17 Kent State points.
That run was the kind of thing that separates the truly elite teams in a conference, and Ohio will have to be ready to answer the next time it happens.
The Bobcats have already dug themselves a bit of a hole in the MAC standings and need to start winning games like the one they played Friday in short order if they want to compete in the conference.