Coming off a disappointing loss to Canisius ten fulls days ago, the UB Mens Basketball team traveled to Brooklyn today to face the Manhattan Jaspers in the Barclays Center Classic and give UB a second win on the day after the womens team won in Lewiston earlier in the afternoon.
The Bulls ultimately dropped an overtime contest 84-81 today after giving up a 10 point run that spanned the last 35 seconds of regulation and bulk of the overtime period. In a hard-fought game, Manhattan's taking the lead to open up the overtime period marked the 17th lead change of the afternoon for the two teams as the Bulls fell to .500 on the season.
Buffalo had some early momentum after an early skirmish. Two Jaspers were ejected for leaving the bench after a foul on Will Regan, and Shannon Evans hit four technical free throws. Combine that with Regan hitting his two and a quick bucket and UB had a 8 points in about the shortest amount of time possible to build a 16-9 lead. While Manhattan would tie it up at 18, and go into the half with only a two point deficit at 39-41, UB was able to play with a couple possession lead for much of the first half, which seemed to help the more inexperienced players on this Bulls team stay calm and under control while facing a team that made the MAAC Championship Game last year
Evans Continues to Impress
14 points in the first half - remember, four of them were on those technical FTs - for the UB freshman. I haven't been able to watch a lot of video feeds this year, but Shannon Evans seems to be improving game over game. He's a smart, agile player who just seems to keep pouring it in. He teamed up in the first half with Xavier Ford for several nice combos.
Speaking of which, how about Xavier Ford this afternoon? A heralded recruit for former coach Reggie Witherspoon who was named Mr. Basketball in Colorado, Ford has had trouble seeing the floor during his time in Amherst. But today he was a key player in the first half, making 8 of 10 from the line to help UB to 41 first half points. He may never light the world on fire, but the junior forward seems to be finding a groove heading into conference play of his third season.
Tough Day for Skeete and Oldham
While the young guys drove the bus in UB's nice win over St. Bonaventure, and Oldham looked to step back into form after breaking his wrist last year, Jarryn Skeete and Jarod Oldham weren't able to add much today, combining for only 6 points on 2 of 9 shooting, and 7 turnovers while the usually composed Oldham rang up 4 fouls.
Skeete did add 7 boards and 2 blocks in the Stats You Don't Usually See From Guards categories.
Sluggish in Tight Game
If I had one word to describe the first 15 minutes of the second half, I would just call it sluggish. There's really not much to say about it until about the 6 minute mark, as the teams stayed within one possession of each other until Manhattan started to pull away, building a 6 point lead, 64-58, with 7 minutes to go.
Freelove as the Spark
At that point, it looked like the game was slipping away from the Bulls, who hadn't hit a number of short range shots in a few minutes. That's when Joshua Freelove poured in seven straight points to change all the momentum and give UB the lead.
Along with Shannon Evans, Freelove has been the surprise of the season so far for the Bulls. The fifth year senior transfer has been exactly what the doctor ordered, as he has provided a stable hand and strong leadership to this team as it transitions to a new system. Freelove finished regulation with 17 points on 13 shots, and his individual run unquestionably saved the game for the flagging Bulls.
Evans From the Line
For as strong a first half as Evans had, he was pretty invisible in the second half, until later in the half as UB held onto their lead. Evans finished regulation with a career-high 20 points on the strength of 13-15 from the line, many coming in the second half.
A quiet but strong second half and game for McCrea. Not much to say, but I think somehow the star Senior is getting overlooked so far this year. McCrea finished with 18 points and 11 boards for the Bulls.
Late Game Play
Ugh. It takes something special to cough up a 6 point lead with :35 to play, and fouling a three point attempt with 5 seconds to go will do that. Bobby Hurley's team likes to play fast and a little loose, but they've got to be smarter than that.
Manhattan had all the momentum, and that was that. Four straight points to open the period, including a bad turnover by McCrea, dug a hole for the Bulls. Freelove (who else?) hit a key three with under a minute left to bring the Bulls back to life.
Down two with the ball and 13 to play in Overtime, all I could think to myself here is that there's no Yassin Idbihi or Parnell Smith to take a three pointer, like in glorious set play successes of old. Unfortunately, Manhattan rebounded the Freelove layup attempt and sank their free throws to ice the game.
Lots of good and bad from today's game, maddening in a different way from the loss to Canisius. The Bulls missed out on a key opportunity to capitalize on a shortened Jaspers bench, and had the hometown team on the ropes, but gave the game away in the last minute of regulation, only to come out flat in overtime. Freelove's three provided a moment of hope, but UB couldn't score on the last possession to force a second OT.
UB nexts plays on Monday at 12 noon against another in-state foe in Binghamton. Go Bulls.