Bobcats seek to break skid against Bowling Green

With just three games in the last three weeks, the Bobcats will have to change gears quickly now.

Ohio begins a stretch of four games in 10 days on Wednesday when Bowling Green visits the Convo for a 2 p.m. tip-off. The game, originally set for March 5, was moved up more than two months after a quarter of the Mid-American Conference all hit pause on basketball activities within a short period.

Miami, Kent State and Buffalo are all currently paused, due to COVID-19 issues, which forced the MAC into a re-scheduling frenzy around Christmas. The end result was six MAC games postponed, including OU’s trip to Miami set for Dec. 29, and four games moved up – including Wednesday’s battle in the Convo.

Ohio second-year men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals (center, in early 2020) will try to get the Bobcats out of a two-game skid on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 against BG. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics/Colin Mayr

It’s been a frustrating month for Ohio (4-3, 0-1 MAC), who haven’t won since Dec. 10 (Purdue Northwest) and were handled easily in consecutive road games against rivals Marshall (81-67) and Akron (90-70) since.

The downturn is coupled with a tough scheduling run from the MAC. Ohio is slated to face league heavies Akron, Bowling Green, Ball State and Toledo all with in its first five league games.

Bowling Green (5-2, 1-0 MAC) was to play at Kent State on Wednesday, but that game too was pushed back and instead adjusted its travel plans to head to southeastern Ohio. The Falcons will be fighting some rust as well as their last game was on Dec. 18, an 85-65 romp of a win at Robert Morris.

BG opened the MAC slate way back on Dec. 6 with a win over Buffalo.

Wednesday’s game, which will not be streamed and not open to the general public, is a critical one for Ohio. The Bobcats, tabbed second in the preseason poll, could fall a full two games off the league-leading pace with a loss, and are desperate to end 2020 with a bit of positive momentum.

Any good vibes generated by a near-miss at Illinois in November have evaporated, and pinning a loss on the Falcons would be a sure sign the Bobcats are back on track.

Ohio played BG tough twice last season, but lost both games. The Bobcats got off to huge first-half lead in Athens, then melted in the second half. In the rematch at Bowling Green, Justin Turner won it late for the Falcons with a step-back jumper with 2.2 seconds left in a 62-61 victory on Feb. 22.

Bowling Green is 8-4 against Ohio since 2015, and the recent success in the series for BG rests with sixth-year head coach Michael Huger and fifth-year senior guard Turner.

Turner might be the best player in the league this season, and was certainly on that short list a year ago as well. He’s averaging 22.0 points and five assists per game. Senior wing/forward Daeqwon Plowden (12.7 points, 9.1 rebounds) is among the best finishers at the rim in the MAC.

Junior guard Jason Preston (18.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists) and senior center Dwight Wilson (14.9 points, 9.1 rebounds) have powered Ohio this season, but both were under par last week in the loss at Akron.

Getting more from both, and junior forward Ben Vander Plas (12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds), is essential for the Bobcats, who haven’t been as effective on the defensive end recently as coach Jeff Boals would like.

Ohio, after Wednesday, is scheduled to travel to Ball State on Saturday, will host Northern Illinois on Tuesday, and then travels to Toledo for a Friday game on Jan. 8.

If the ‘Cats don’t find some traction quickly, they could find themselves out of the regular-season race before the calendar hits February.

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