This is going to be a little different today because I wasn't really able to follow tonight's game in Muncie, only checking in at halftime and following the last three minutes, as the Bulls never really separated from a lesser Ball State team and allowed a bad team to build momentum at home and swing a tight game in the final minutes.
Hopes were high for UB fans coming off as close a loss as possible on the road to Toledo, and a solid win against long time foe Kent State. Some things that stood out to me:
#ReleaseTheKraken - Do you hear that? It's the sound of my narrative breaking. Javon McCrea killed it in the first half on his way to a big, big, 28/11 night. While most of his points came in the first 20, the senior still put up a solid number in the final period, as I suppose you need to do to get to 28 in a single game.
This will get overshadowed because of the road setting and the loss, but Javon moved into 3rd place on the UB all-time books with his performance.
Free Throws - The biggest thing that stood out to me in the close loss in Toledo was the massive disparity in foul shots between the two teams. When I checked in to this game, that really seemed to be the only reason for UB's lead. In a season where most fans recognize Bulls guards are getting to the rim more often than in the past, it's nice to see that UB can create an advantage, and that the game against the Rockets seems to be an anomaly.
Three Point Shooting - Dear God. Just in case we didn't already know, this team will run on the contributions of the back court. Tonight in a matchup where most of the categories between the two teams were even (assists, turnovers, rebounds), UB pissed away the five point advantage they gained at the line by shooting only 1-14 from distance. I don't even feel like I need to say more on that.
Bench Contributions - Also not good enough. Basically reread the last paragraph and repeat it with this stat: 6 total points from Evans, Skeete, Moss and Much. Skeete tossed in a handful of boards and assists to his credit, but the difference between this team being an average-to-above-average MAC team that can win or lose on any night, and a top tier conference group that can expect to win is getting reliable contributions from more than two of Freelove, Regan, and McCrea.
It's still the MAC - Winning on the road is still hard in this conference. Losing to a 3-12 team with only one D1 win really sucks, as does the difference between the hypothetical 4-1 and very real 3-2, but how the team comes out in another road game they should win in DeKalb is the important thing now. Coach Hurley needs to make sure this team is motivated on the right way. Worst case scenario is the team coming out tight against the Huskies and gripping the club too hard.
People who followed more of the the game than I will likely find the silver lining harder to acknowledge, but UB did get basically the easiest possible West draw this season as the MAC does away with divisions. On one hand, if the Bulls want to contend for the upper seeds in the conference tourney they cant let opportunities like tonight slip away, but I'd also be surprised if we didn't see other East contenders go 1-1 in this "extra" games against the West.
Onto the next one. Go Bulls.