Ohio (7-13, 4-6 Mid-American Conference) has endured a turbulent season of injuries thus far into its 2023-24 year. As of late, several major contributors have been sidelined.
Leading scorer Jaya McClure has played just 40 minutes since Jan. 13. Defensive stalwart Cassidy Lafler hasn't seen the floor since Jan. 3. Transfer portal addition Kennedi Watkins has missed the Bobcats' last three games, and most recently, starting forward Bengisu Alper went down with an ankle injury against Buffalo.
While short-handed, Ohio has seen its biggest high of the season in its three-game win streak, headed by its talented trio of freshmen: Monica Williams, Bailey Tabeling and Laylay Fantroy, propelling them to .500 in the MAC at a time. However, Ohio has faltered since that streak, suffering two big losses to Buffalo and Ball State.
It's easy to blame the injuries for these huge losses, but the Bobcats' level of play has declined, showing major deficiencies in several areas.
The one that sticks off the stat sheet has been shooting. Over the two-game skid the Bobcats have gone on, the team has shot 34.2% from the field, going 39-of-114 overall. When watching the game, it seems the team is taking whatever its opponent gives them, but to a degree that's unsustainable.
Against Buffalo, the team shot a season-high 39 3-pointers. Buffalo was conceding early clock deep shots for Ohio's best shooters, giving Ohio fewer quality possessions and allowing Buffalo to get more possessions overall.
On top of the shots they've been getting, their best shooters have been in a bit of a slump. Over those two games, Tabeling, who shoots 45.8% from three, has gone 5-of-21 from deep. While they've been getting increased production from the young Bobcats, there's reason to believe they're being overextended due to the lack of veterans running the team.
The flashes have been impressive, and inevitably, all shooting slumps come to an end, but this is undoubtedly a part of the team's slump.
In addition to individual performances, the Bobcats hit a rough part of their schedule. Ball State is undefeated in MAC play, with its only losses coming to ranked opponents. The Cardinals have outmatched every team in the MAC, and it is evident in their undefeated record in the conference.
On the other hand, Buffalo features the nation's third-leading scorer, Chellia Watson, who, at the time of its matchup against Ohio, was coming off a 47-point performance. When Watson got going, Buffalo's offense was seemingly impossible to stop.
Once Ohio gets past its final nonconference game against Texas State on Saturday, the team will have a chance at redemption against Ball State. From there, the schedule should begin to ease up. It's a crucial point in the season for the team, as they hope to maintain a spot in the MAC tournament come the season's end. If the Bobcats recoup their injured talent, they'll have a real chance at getting into the postseason.