Mitchell Watt has a minimum of four games remaining in his career so winning a Mid-American Conference championship is foremost on his mind. That's why he was so agitated over the University at Buffalo's 88-77 loss on Wednesday to Ohio University.
How can the Bulls, who are still in the hunt for a top-four seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament, play with such little passion against an Ohio team with so much on the line? How could they allow 21 offensive rebounds and 75 shots?
Ohio played like a team with legitimate postseason hopes while UB showed little fire. No, the long trip to South Dakota State over the weekend is not an excuse for how poorly they performed against the Bobcats on Wednesday in front of 2,925 at Alumni Arena. So Watt, one of three seniors on the roster, is seething.
"This is my last year and I don't like to see us lose games in the fashion that we lost [Wednesday]," said Watt, who scored a team-high 19 points and had seven rebounds.
Watt was a freshman the last time the Bulls played for the MAC Tournament championship, in 2009, when they lost to Akron. He talked about how that team with Greg Gamble had great leadership.
"When you're at the end you start thinking about the beginning a little bit," he said. "I want to make sure I'm bringing that kind of energy because if you lose a game like that, a MAC championship game, you can hold your head high knowing that Akron shot the lights out that night and we played hard. I wish I could say the same about [Wednesday]. It's just frustrating."
Sophomore Javon McCrea concurred with Watt, saying the team appeared lifeless during warm-ups.
"I just feel like guys don't want it as much as others," said McCrea, who had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. "We'll fix it, trust me, we'll fix it."
Yes, there's that numbing feeling that the Bulls are frozen in the midst of their annual February nosedive. It was the Bulls' third loss in a row and leaves them in a three-way tie for second place with Kent State and Ohio at 9-4 in the Mid-American Conference's East Division, behind first-place Akron.
They fell to 4-3 this month with three more games remaining -- at home against Miami (Ohio), at Akron and against Bowling Green on Senior Day -- before the league tournament, which begins March 5.
The top four teams in the conference all advance to Cleveland and the Bulls are still in play for a top-four seed, but if they perform the way they did Wednesday, their postseason will be short-lived.
"When we get in situations where we can't get a rebound, we're in trouble," UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "And [Wednesday] we were in trouble."
Toss in some timely three-point shooting by Ohio (10 of 28), 14 Bulls turnovers that were converted into 18 points and the Bobcats were able to put the game on cruise late and lead by as many as 19 points.
Zach Filzen, the Bulls' third-leading scorer at 12.2 points a game, was a woeful 3 of 11 from long range and 4 of 14 overall. Tony Watson came off the bench and was 1 for 7, all three-point attempts, while Dave Barnett was 2 for 8 overall and 1 of 4 from behind the three-point arc.
Nevertheless, a lot of Buffalo's momentum was snatched away by a controversial technical foul call on Titus Robinson. The Bulls trailed, 62-57, with 7:26 left when Robinson was issued a technical for hanging on the rim after a two-handed dunk.
Ohio's Nick Kellogg, the son of CBS announcer and former NBA player Clark Kellogg, hit both free throws before Walter Offutt's three-pointer pushed the Bobcats' lead back to 10 at 67-57.
Robinson, who was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line, finished with 14 points while Watt was 7 of 8 from the line. Filzen finished with 11 for the Bulls (16-9, 9-4).
Offutt led all scorers with 23 points while Cooper had 20 with eight assists and four steals.