Men’s basketball: The Bobcats have gone cold

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John Groce may soon make his players carry around a hammer and chisel to pry the lids off the various rims the Bobcats have taken aim at recently. No, there aren’t really lids on the rims, but in Ohio’s past four games, it sure seemed as if there were.

In the Bobcats’ post-winter break games against Robert Morris, Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Akron, the team has won just once. From the field in those four games, Ohio has made 86 of 244 shots, which is a woeful 35.2 percent from the field.

To put things in perspective, the current cellar-dwellers in the NCAA field goal percentage rankings are Grambling (30.8 percent), Northern Illinois (35.5), and Radford (35.6). Those statistics are for the entire season. Luckily for Ohio, the ‘Cats are shooting 43.1 percent on the season and aren’t in as dire a situation as the other three. However, if taken at the previous four games, Ohio would be nudging in between NIU and Grambling for a spot in the basement next to a frozen side of beef.

“Sometimes [the shots are] just not going to fall,” guard Nick Kellogg said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get shots and get stops even when our shots aren’t falling.”

What’s worse is Ohio’s three-point percentage. Kellogg has been Ohio’s most consistent shooter at 45.8 percent from behind the arc. The junior guard has made nine of 25 three-pointers during the stretch (36 percent). The Bobcats as a team have shot just 19.1 percent in the past four games, tallying a measly 17 three-point baskets. Once again, for comparison purposes only, if taken at the previous four games, Ohio would be the worst three-point shooting team in Division-I NCAA men’s basketball…by nearly eight percentage points. Ohio would slide behind Rhode Island (26.9 percent) and the aforementioned frozen side of beef.

The question is whether this is just a cold streak for Ohio or if there happens to be a fundamental issue with the team’s shooting. After the first 13 games of the season, Ohio was quickly becoming one of the most exciting mid-major teams in America for fans to watch with its uptempo offense. But two weeks later, here they are as one of the worst shooting teams in all of college basketball.

“I think it’s just something we’ve got to shoot out of,” captain Walter Offutt said. “There’s no magic wand or anything. We just need to get more shots up and we’ll get our groove back.”

Despite the simply woeful percentage, Ohio players’ confidence remains high. Kellogg and Offutt both think the streak is simply something the ‘Cats need to ride out.

“People are hitting the panic button a little too fast,” Offutt said. “We got off to a slow start in MAC play, but I think we’ll get back to our ways here soon.”

For the Bobcats’ sake, they’d better hope Offutt is right. As the saying goes, they can’t make shots unless they keep taking them. Ohio will look to shake off the winter break cobwebs Wednesday against Kent State and restore the magic of what was an historic start. The ‘Cats must hope for a quick turnaround, as the conference season isn’t getting any younger. The time is now for Ohio to claw its way out of the cold, cold butcher’s freezer.