Things are not trending in a good direction for the Bobcats.
Ohio dropped its third straight game, and fell to 0-2 in Mid-American Conference play on Wednesday when visiting Bowling Green rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to pin an 83-75 loss on the Bobcats in the Convo.
Worse still for OU (4-4) was the absence of standout point guard Jason Preston, who sat out the game after suffering a “lower extremity” injury in practice this week. Coach Jeff Boals didn’t want to delve deeply into Preston’s status afterward, instead preferring to talk about how freshman Mark Sears filled in.
“Hopefully it’s short-term,” Boals said about Preston’s injury, noting that Preston was consulting with medical personnel again after Wednesday’s loss.
On the floor, it was a déjà vu game for Ohio, which outplayed Bowling Green for a majority of the contest but only had a loss to show for it after the Falcons (6-2, 2-0) found another gear after halftime. It was the same case in both games last season.
“They’re a great team,” said Ohio junior forward Ben Vander Plas, who had his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “(BG guard) Justin Turner is a great player… He knows what to do down the stretch.”
Turner was quiet, by his standards, with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists. Forward Trey Diggs had 20 points to lead five Falcons in double figures.
BG did most of its damage at the foul line, where it finished 36 of 38 (94.7 percent). The Falcons were 27 of 28 at the stripe in the second half alone. That, also, chafed Boals, who saw his team hit 9 of 12.
“Every time they drove in there, it was something,” the coach said.
“We’ve got to defend better without fouling, simple as that,” Vander Plas said.
Sears was great in his first collegiate start, and finished with nine points, six rebounds and nine assists and just two turnovers in 33 minutes.
Dwight Wilson III had a team-high 20 points for the Bobcats, Ben Roderick dropped in 16 and Lunden McDay added 11.
Ohio bagged 12 3-pointers on the day, but shot just 4 of 16 from the arc in the second half.
The Bobcats never trailed in the first half after opening the game with a 9-2 run capped by Wilson’s dunk. Ohio led 42-32 at the break after leading by as many as 13 points in the first 20 minutes. Bowling Green didn’t hit a field goal in the last 6:26.
But all that flipped in the second half. OU led 51-39 with 16:31 remaining after Wilson’s layup, but the Falcons scored 44 points in the final 16:19.
BG scored 22 points on just 11 possessions to pull to within 63-61 with 10:54 left, and then tied it at 63 on two free throws from Diggs with 9:30 left.
The game stayed tight from that point onward, and BG found its first lead with 7:05 remaining on two more Diggs free throws.
Ohio took its last lead at 74-72 with 4:03 remaining when Wilson scored inside on a reverse. But that field goal was the only one the Bobcats made over the last nine minutes, and BG finished the game with an 11-1 run over the final 3:36.
While Ohio missed its final five shots, the Falcons made seven of eight free throws, and scratched out two key offensive rebounds in a then-four-point game with just two minutes to go. Those “winning plays” – to quote Boals – were the difference.
Unlike recent losses at Marshall and at Akron, the Bobcats competed hard and with energy from the start. But this time they were missing their best player and were on the wrong side of 50/50 plays down the stretch.
“There’s one or two plays that changed the game down the stretch,” said Roderick, who hit his first three 3-pointer, then just one of his last seven. “They made those plays, and we weren’t.”
Ohio continues MAC play Saturday at Ball State.