UB welcomed Binghamton into Alumni Arena this afternoon and after fifteen tight minutes, the result was much of what you'd expect, as the hometown team took advantage of a short Binghamton bench and overmatched rebounders to cruise to a 30 point win.
UB's 155 made FTs in their first 8 games are the most in that stretch since joining the MAC. To some extent, this has to be partly because of the rule changes, but I think it's apparent that under Hurley UB takes the ball to rack more than at any time since Rodney Pierce was wearing the Blue and White.
While Syracuse barely leaves New York if they don't have to, and America East opponents may not be the best to fill up your OOC schedule, I was still surprised to find out that today's game marked the first contest between Buffalo and Binghamton since 1980.
Hurley deviated from his seasonlong starting five, keeping Jarryn Skeete on the bench in favor of Xavier Ford, who had a strong game against Manhattan on Saturday. Ford finished with an effective 9 points and 3 boards in 22 minutes.
The first half obviously consisted of two clear phases: 15 minutes of dogfight, during which at one point Binghamton opened up a 5 point lead, and then the final 5:44, in which UB started forcing turnovers, minimized fouls, and hit 7 of their final 12 shots of the half to turn a 20-23 deficit into a 40-27 advantage.
Things looked pretty ugly early on, in part because of UB's traditional inability to do anything against a zone. Even Binghamton, forced into a using a zone defense because of a short bench, was able to stymie the Bulls' offense. The team suffered from clear spacing issues and seemed to force threes at times. They were getting open looks, but Javon McCrea was scoring through double and triple teams, while the guards continued to throw up threes at the first chance they got. I also notice that in Hurley's system the ball screens and guards play further from the arc than they did under Coach Spoon. Other than knowing that it's better to run ball screens in tighter situations to open up space, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Something to watch going forward, for sure.
Quite simply, coming off a tight, physical game just two days ago and mired in a tight game against a team playing a short bench, UB's subs did not contribute enough early on to swing the momentum. It's tough to criticize given how the rest of the game went, but while Deyshonee Much proved to be valuable on defense, he and Jarryn Skeete with 2 points each made up the entirety of UB's bench scoring in the first half.
It seemed based on the first few games of the season that Senior Forward Will Regan was having trouble adjusting to a new coach and system. You wouldn't have ever guessed that based on the first twenty today. Regan was all over the place in the early going, and hit a big three in the dying seconds of the half to extend the run that would ultimately continue over half time. Regan finished the first half with nine points and four rebounds in 14 high-quality minutes.
Three Binghamton starters finished the first half with three fouls. As I mentioned above, UB is doing a far better job drawing fouls than they have in the past. How much of that is the rule change, I can't see, but it certainly feels like UB has more dribble penetration in their offense than they have since Rodney Pierce and Greg Gamble.
Adventures in Hot Mics
Not game-related, but good fun when you're in the office on Monday, December 23rd just trying to pass the time before the holiday:
"What did Jarod do?"
"He double dribbled. Big as hell! Big as hell he double dribbled right there!"
"That girl looks like ___" (bummed I couldn't make it out)
"I tell you what, there's more people here than I thought there'd be"
"Where are you staying in Vegas?" "I gotta look it up, it's on timeshare points"
After finishing the first half on a big run, UB kept it going right out of the gate. For ninety seconds, basically the only words that came out of Josh Whetzel's mouth were come combination of "McCrea", "steals", "Oldham", and "points" as UB forced the Bearcats to use a timeout just ninety seconds into the half and effectively made the final 18 minutes a formality.
To some extent you expect this against a shorthanded and overmatched 2-8 America East team, but man did Javon McCrea announce his presence this afternoon. After a successful first half in which he got into double digit scoring and was within one or two rebounds of a double double, the forward absolutely dominated the first five minutes of the second half, highlighted by 3 steals in the first 3 1/2 minutes, one of which ended with a BIG one-handed slam and and-one.
McCrea was still on the floor in the last quarter of the game, but with 15 minutes to go he had 20 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks and 3 steals in just 19 minutes on his way to 25 and 14, and no turnovers.
No great, huge observation to make here, as UB absolutely coasted through the end of the game, but I was wanted to give Regan some more love. Same story as the first, all over the boards as UB maintained a +8 rebounding advantage for much of the game, and constantly fighting for putbacks and points in the paint as he finished with 18 points and 7 boards. Of all those rebounds, Regan pulled in his first defensive rebound with only three minutes to play.
More of the Same with Freelove
Last time, I wrote about how great an addition Josh Freelove has been to this team, with his experienced presence and quiet hand. Well, if Regan had a quiet bunch of points, Freelove joined him, pumping in 19 and continuing his strong, strong season for the Bulls.
"This is getting to be a blood bath"
"They're playing BRYANT next."
"How about this, 7:43 left to go in the game, and the score is 70-43."
Stat of the Game: UB started the game shooting 5-15 and finished the game at 28-59, which means they shot above 50% for the last 28 minutes.
Attendance was announced at 1,346, as the announcing team made several references to being surprised at the turnout. I'm honestly surprised given the announced crowds. Boxscores say 3,346, which is more Danny White-ish. It definitely looked like more than 1500 on the stream.
The Bulls next play against Drexel in Philadelphia in six days on Sunday, December 29th at 2:00 PM.