Looking for answers during the bye

Ohio men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals (right) shouts out instructions to Miles Brown (23) during the Bobcats’ loss at Ball State on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.

MUNCIE, Ind. — Jordan Dartis swears he’ll take time to appreciate the accomplishment at some point.

But you’ll have to forgive him if he’s not thrilled at the prospects of a record given the Bobcats’ current predicament.

Dartis, a fifth-year senior guard, tied the Ohio career record for made 3-pointers with a left-corner triple early in the second half. It was career 3-pointer No. 290 for Dartis, who is now tied with former Bobcat Nick Kellogg (2011-14) for the top spot in the record book.

But that make was a fleeting bright spot for Dartis and the Bobcats. Dartis missed six of the seven shots he took, and the Bobcats stumbled through a 65-54 loss to Ball State at Worthern Arena.

Dartis has been closing in on the record for weeks, but has needed six games to get his last 10 3-pointers. Dartis is shooting just 22.7 percent from 3 over those six games (10 of 44), and it’s clear now he just wants to put the talk of the mark behind him.

He’s been asked about for the last 10 days or so.

“I can’t say I’m dealing with it, but I just want to get it over with so we can stop talking about it. That’s really it,” Dartis said Saturday.

“When it happens, I’ll definitely be grateful about it but I’m more worried about winning games right now,” he added. “I’d rather go 0-for-10 with win than 10-for-16 with a loss.”

You’ll likely find the same answers up and down the Bobcat roster. Ohio (10-12, 2-7 Mid-American Conference) has dropped four straight games in conference play and six of its last seven.

OU has fallen out of contention for a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament during the conference slate’s first half. The Bobcats will need to improve if they want to avoid a road trip in the campus-site first round of the same tournament.

Ohio will have an open date on Tuesday, its first and only gap in the MAC season, and will have some time to ponder how to reverse course. The Bobcats begin the week in 11th place in the overall MAC standings, and trail Toledo (11-11, 3-6 MAC) by two games — the Rockets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker — for eighth place. OU will have to catch Toledo — seventh place Buffalo is a three full games up on Ohio — to have a shot at playing at home in the first round of the tournament.

Ohio, Toledo, Miami (9-12, 2-6 MAC), Western Michigan (9-12, 2-6) and Eastern Michigan (11-10, 1-7) have clearly fell below the midway line in conference play. The Bobcats are 2-0 against EMU, but 0-7 against the rest of the league.

If first-year head coach Jeff Boals was looking at the big picture, he might begin to get dismayed. However, he hasn’t budged on his approach; his team just has to get better.

“We got to get better. It’s the bottom line. We have to continue to get better and go back to work,” Boals said Saturday.

“That’s the only way you’re going to get through something like this. No one is going to feel sorry for you.”

Ball State stuffed OU on the offensive end throughout, and gave the Bobcats their worst conference loss of the season. Ohio shot just 35.6 percent overall, were terrible from 3-point range (5 of 28) and had its top three scorers (Dartis, sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas and sophomore guard Jason Preston) held to a combined 26 points.

The loss was a step back for Ohio, which had been on the razor’s edge for three other potential wins in MAC play. That wasn’t the case at Ball State, and now the ‘Cats will have a couple days to regroup.

“It was disappointing. Coach called it out,” said freshman guard Lunden McDay. “We weren’t competing as hard as we could. You could see it from the score.”

There was some good news. McDay hit double figures for a third straight game, and continues to play with the kind of maximum effort that Boals has stressed this season. Freshman guard Miles Brown had two points, three rebounds and three steals in his longest stint of the season; it looked like a sign he could be due for more minutes.

But with half the conference season remaining, it’s hard to see Ohio course correcting without a major change in the on-the-floor results. The Bobcats are only eighth in the MAC in offensive efficiency (103.4 points per 100 possession), and rank 10th in the MAC in defensive efficiency (107.9).

Ohio, in conference games, is fourth in offensive rebound percentage (29.6) and second-best in locking up the defensive glass (25.5 percent offensive rebounds allowed), but doesn’t stand out in any other way.

In fact, Ohio ranks near the bottom of the league in several key statistics including free throw rate (24.6 percent, 11th), free throw shooting (63.7 percent, 11th) and 2-point shooting defense (51.5 percent, 11th).

Despite that however, Ohio’s record could be vastly improved with a handful of plays made in crunch time. And with the MAC playing more close games (4 points, or overtime) than all but one other conference in the country, there’s a good chance the Bobcats will get a chance to win some of close calls in the season’s second half.

“We’re trying to get closer together. Nobody likes losing,” Dartis said. “I know everybody on this team cares about winning. Whatever we got to do to come together and get it done, we will.

“Take a day or two, take a look in the mirror to see what we need to deal with, and come back and try to get better.”

Ohio’s next chance to get better will come Saturday. OU will host rival Miami in a 3:30 p.m. start inside the Convocation Center.

Ball State 65, Ohio 54

Ohio 19 35 — 54

Ball State 31 34 — 65

OHIO 54 (10-12, 2-7 MAC)

Ben Vander Plas 5 2-3 12, Sylvester Ogbonda 1 0-0 2, Jason Preston 3 3-3 9, Lunden McDay 5 0-0 11, Jordan Dartis 1 2-3 5, Nate Springs 2 0-0 6, Ben Roderick 2 0-0 5, Miles Brown 1 0-0 2, Nolan Foster 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 21 7-9 54; 3-point goals — 5-28 (Springs 2-4, McDay 1-3, Dartis 1-5, Roderick 1-5, Preston 0-2, Brown 0-2, Vander Plas 0-7).

BALL STATE 65 (12-9, 5-3 MAC)

Kyle Mallers 4 0-0 10, Tahjai Teague 10 2-2 24, Luke Bumbalough 2 0-0 4, Ishmael El-Amin 3 0-0 9, Jarron Coleman 2 6-7 10, Josh Thompson 1 4-4 6, Brachen Hazen 0 2-2 2, Kani Acree 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 22 14-15 65; 3-point goals — 7-29 (El-Amin 3-9, Teague 2-3, Mallers 2-7, Hazen 0-1, Thompson 0-2, Acree 0-3, Bumbalough 0-4).

TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Field goals — Ohio 21-59 (.356), 3-point goals 5-28 (.179); Ball St. 22-57 (.386), 3-point goals 7-29 (.241); Free throws — Ohio 7-9 (.778), BSU 14-15 (.933); Rebounds — Ohio 37/6 offensive (Vander Plas 9), BSU 35/4 offensive (Coleman 9); Assists — Ohio 8 (Preston 5), BSU 10 (El-Amin 4); Steals — Ohio 6 (Brown 3), BSU 8 (El-Amin 3); Blocks — Ohio 3, BSU 3; Turnovers — Ohio 15, BSU 9; Personal fouls — Ohio 14, BSU 11; Attendance — 5,238; Technical fouls — none.

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

Load comments