Back to Oxford

Ohio sophomore guard James Gollon (3) and freshman Teyvion Kirk (4) will try to help the Bobcats notch an eighth straight win over Miami on Monday. The Bobcats and RedHawks meet at 7 p.m. in a first round game of the 2018 MAC Tournament inside Millett Hall.

Note: This story appears in the Sunday, March 4 newspaper on Page B1.

OXFORD, Ohio — Mike Laster took just a second to appreciate what the Bobcats had done.

“Damn, seven times in a row?” he said after Ohio topped Miami 75-66 on Friday night inside Millett Hall.

Laster and the Bobcats won’t have to wait long to see if they can make it eight straight.

The 2018 Mid-American Conference Tournament begins Monday, and on Saturday afternoon the bracket was set. Ohio (14-16) will be the No. 10 seed in the tournament. The reward was a return trip to Oxford, where the Bobcats will face No. 7 Miami (15-16) at 7 p.m. on Monday.

It will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams, and the second in four days. The winner advances to Cleveland and a spot in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday inside Quicken Loans area against No. 2 Toledo (21-10) at 6:30 p.m.

But first things first. The ‘Battle of the Bricks’ gets a postseason edition in 2018 and it figures to be tight, hotly contested game — just like the first two games between the clubs this season.

“That’s the textbook rival, Ohio and Miami,” said Ohio junior guard Jordan Dartis.

And it’s one that has been one-sided of late. The Bobcats’ win on Friday was the seventh in a row for Ohio in the series, and the 14th victory in the last 15 meetings. Ohio hasn’t lost a head-to-head battle with Miami since the 2014-15 season.

The last tournament matchup between the teams was a 63-55 Ohio win on March 12, 2014. Ohio is 7-3 against Miami, all-time, in the MAC Tournament, but the two teams have never met in the first round.

There’s a lot of recent history on Ohio’s side, but Laster a tournament game is a whole different set of circumstances.

“I really wouldn’t think about the previous seven times,” he said. “We just take the scouting report, use it and try to play our game.”

Ohio won the first meeting this season by virtue of a 92-87 decision in overtime in Athens. The nine-point on Friday was close until the final five minutes.

The formula in both games has been the same. Ohio executes well offensively in long stretches, but is bogged down by occasional turnover-heavy spans that allow Miami to generate runs.

The RedHawks have forced 33 turnovers combined in the two games, which have led to 34 Miami points.

That figures to be the swing factor in the rubber match on Monday night.

“We can certainly improve on taking care fo the ball,” Ohio head coach Saul Phillips said. “We need to relieve pressure better.”

And what kind of wrinkles does he anticipate from Miami?

“More pressure,” he said.

While Miami will be looking to break a streak of bad history in this series, Ohio will have its own trends to contend with.

For instance, this will be the seventh time that the Bobcats open the MAC tournament with a team it defeated in the regular-season finale. Ohio is 0-6 is the previous half-dozen situations.

Also, no 10-seed or lower has ever won the MAC Tournament. Ohio is 0-1 as a 10-seed, and throughout the history of the tournament no 10-seed has won a single game in the tournament (0-18). Teams seeded 11th and 12th are a combined 12-41.

Ohio should have confidence it can win on Monday, but confidence only takes you so far, Phillips said. The Bobcats will have to play better to have a chance to replicate Friday’s effort.

“I’ve been on the other end of that and it’s no easier to beat them the third time as the other two,” the coach said.

2018 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament

(all games on ESPN3 unless noted)

Monday, March 5, First Round

Game 1: No. 9 Bowling Green (16-15) at No. 8 Central Michigan (18-13), 7 p.m.

Game 2: No. 12 Northern Illinois (13-18) at No. 5 Kent State (15-16), 7 p.m.

Game 3: No. 10 Ohio (14-16) at No. 7 Miami (15-16), 7 p.m.

Game 4: No. 11 Akron (13-17) at No. 6 Western Michigan (17-14), 7:45 p.m.

Thursday, March 8, Quarterfinals

(Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland)

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. No. 1 Buffalo (23-8), 12 p.m.

Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. No. 4 Ball State (19-12), 2:30 p.m.

Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 2 Toledo (21-10), 6:30 p.m.

Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 3 Eastern Michigan (20-11), 9 p.m.

Friday, March 9, Semifinals

(Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland)

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6:30 p.m. (CBS SN)

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 9 p.m. (CBS SN)

Saturday, March 10, Championship

(Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland)

Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

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