In retrospect, maybe I should have seen this coming. I wouldn't consider myself a superstitious sports fan- I don't believe in curses and jinxes. But fate could not resist the temptation that my article published today presented, in which I wrote in support of the Bobcats. Ohio stumbled out of the gate in what seemed like an attempt to undermine my support for them. After one game of MAC play, the Bobcats are 0-1.
The 70-60 loss at the hands of the Huskies drops the Bobcats to 5-7 on the season and pulls them away from the .500 mark, a milestone that looked accomplishable going into the game tonight. NIU (now 7-5) is not a bad team, but is certainly a beatable one - they fell to the same DePaul team that Ohio pasted 99-78 a few weeks ago.
Ohio seemed to be prepared coming into the game- they quickly jumped ahead to an 11-2 lead. But six minutes later, it was all tied at 15 thanks to the Bobcats missing several three-pointers and being careless with the basketball. From there, the Huskies pulled ahead by four several times, but Ohio was able to keep pace and the score was knotted at 32 all at the buzzer.
The Bobcats shot a respectable 54 percent from the field in the first half, a number boosted by Antonio Campbell's points in the paint. After 20 minutes, he led the team with eleven points, even sinking a 3-pointer. Ryan Taylor and Maurice Ndour each added eight. But the team turned the ball over eight times, which the Huskies transformed into twelve points. NIU leading scorer at the half, Aaric Armstead, also had eleven points at half, with center Pete Rakocevic adding eight and Travon Baker with seven.
But the game got away from Ohio in the second half. The Huskies remained consistent: they posted a 43 percent mark from the floor in the first and second halves. But Ohio's percentage dropped to a paltry 30 percent. A minute and a half into the second, NIU's Anthony Johnson hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish.
It seemed like the Bobcats couldn't buy a bucket. Long balls were off the mark. Jump shots rolled out. Ohio even missed a fair share of layups beneath the hoop. At the midway point in the half, NIU was up by six. Four minutes later, they stretched that lead to ten. The 'Cats had to start fouling, but the Huskies took advantage, sinking 19 of 22 free throws in the game's final 20 minutes.
NIU is not a bad team - they showed that tonight. They didn't take many bad shots and they made their shots from the charity stripe. Those are two signs of a good, fundamentally-sound basketball team. But this was a game that the Bobcats could of won.
I wrote this morning about how teams shouldn't be judged on small sample sizes. To judge Ohio solely on the games thus far would not be fair. But that small sample size is growing larger with each passing game and missed opportunity.