Not much to say about this one. UB had two spurts and then a lot of lifelessness as they headed into the teeth of the MAC heartland and dropped a road loss to the Zips. There's no shame in splitting the season series with Akron, or with losing on the road, but this game was a painful effort outside of a run to overcome a 14 point deficit in the first half, and a 17-7 burst on the back of Josh Freelove to open the second.
Instant Reactions below:
Pace - After the last matchup between these two teams ended at 96-90, you had to think tonight's matchup would slow down a bit a return to defensive fundamentals. In the early going that just wasn't the case, and after an early 5-2 lead the Bulls lost all their shooting touch and began to rush shots, only to watch Akron go nuts and open up a 14-5 lead before Hurley called a timeout that felt like it came ages too late, even if maybe 11-5 isn't too wild a differential.
Before I could even finish typing the previous blurb about waiting too long to take a timeout, Hurley was forced to take another when Demetrius Treadwell's 6th point stretched the lead to 18-7. At this point UB, who had outrebounded their opponent in eight straight games, was being beat on the glass 9-2. Out of the stoppage, Quincy Diggs hit another three and was fouled. He didn't hit the resulting free throw, but it's not often you see anyone jump out to a 21-7 lead, let alone on an opponent seemingly in their stride heading into March like the Bulls.
The Other Evans - Akron's PG Nyles Evans opened the game 3-3 from distance, and each one seemed more of a backbreaker. The Zips have spent the few games since their loss to the Bulls looking to replace the 3 point shooting of Jake Kretzer, who suffered a concussion at the hands of Justin Moss' inadvertent elbow, but in the last two games Evans has stepped up his long-range accuracy.
Struggles From Distance - Throughout the season UB has tried to shoot its way out of deficits and even out of slumps when they hold a lead, and the first ten minutes of the half were more of the same, characterized by rushed shots and trouble against the press 0-4 from three.
UB got a glimpse of life when Treadwell was called for his second foul. Shortly after, the rebounding gap was closed to 10-6, and then Buffalo reeled off an 11-0 run to get to 24-21.
Of note: that 11-0 run was built on precisely ZERO attempts from distance. The streak was finally broken by a returned Treadwell who survived playing much of the half with 2 fouls. The comeback was built on themes exactly opposite to the play that dug a hole for UB: slowing things down, not rushing threes, and forcing and capitalizing on turnovers.
It's become apparent long before tonight that this team needs to work inside first to open up the three; look at the first an second halves of the Miami game on Saturday, and in a smaller stretch of time look at what worked just within the twenty minutes of the first half today. UB would finish the half shooting 0-8 from distance.
Coming out of a Run - Sometimes when a team works hard to erase a deficit they falter and don't have the energy to play even the rest of the way. At least in the first half, UB was able to stay within range of the Zips after working to close the game.
Key Stats at the Half: Justin Moss co-led the Bulls with seven points at the half. Another player also had seven, but killed the Bulls with rushed threes.
Another stat to pay attention to: In the teams' first meeting, they combined for just four turnovers at the half and twelve in the entire game. Today, each team had committed seven at the half.
ThreeLove - The star of the Miami game last Saturday was suprisingly quiet in the first half, but came out of the break with a three to start with a bang. Once again the two teams went off the races. A pretty Oldham to McCrea lob was sandwiched by Quincy Diggs scoring Akron's first five points. When Will Regan missed yet another three for UB, it looked like the team had made no adjustments during the break. UB was 1-10 from three, but 11-17 from inside the arc.
The team started to find some juice on the back of more Freelove, who canned a few more threes to spot UB a 47-42 lead, capping 17-7 to open the half.
Tight Game - Akron wasn't going to let the Bulls run away, of course, especially with a raucous home crowd behind them. The Zips slowly went on a 9-2 run to get their biggest lead of the half at 56-50, led by Quincy Diggs' 15 points. Diggs was nowhere near done.
Foul Trouble - At a time when Buffalo desperately needed to punch back, the Hurley Tech Monster struck. UB's first year coach had been warned a bit in recent games, and was given a warning in the first half. At the 12 minute mark in the second a Justin Moss foul led to Hurley T. Akron is one of the free throw shooting teams in the conference, and after missing his first, McAdams hit the second, for Akron's very first point from the line on the night.
A well-time outburst from a baseball manager can ignite his team and get them rolling. You could say the same about a fight in hockey.
You can not say this however, about a Hurley outburst. Against Bowling Green Hurley's technical sucked any chance of UB coming back out of the air, and tonight UB was unable to do much but prolong their misery after the outburst. A Freelove floater got UB within five, but then Quincy Diggs took over
Quincy Diggs - Diggs simply dominated he game for about a 70 second stretch, stepping on UB's throat and not letting up. A personal 5-0 run iced things, but Nick Harney got a bucket off a Diggs steal and this one was over but for the last three minutes and the expected foulfest that stretched things out and let me get to work on this.
Adventures in Pep Band - The Zips band played "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi late in the game. For such a pep band mainstay in a season when we've heard new tunes from other bands, I'd expect this rendition to be a little cleaner and less rushed.
Player of the Game: Quincy Diggs, and it isn't even close. Despite 15 points for McCrea, UB's star struggled from the line and finished with just 4 rebounds. Josh Freelove poured in 17 in the second half, but was the only Bull doing anything by that point, and Shannon Evans' 12 points don't outweigh his rushed threes and turnovers.
Diggs finished with 25 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists. UB just had no answer for him, especially in the 'gut-check' minutes of the second half.
This is UB's first MAC loss in which they did not hold a lead in the final three minutes. They were just outplayed by a team more ready to perform tonight.
UB next plays in their regular season finale Saturday as part of a Women's-Men's doubleheader in Alumni Arena. It is Senior Day!
I can't stress this enough: Be There.
Not only is it the last home game for Javon McCrea, Jarod Oldham, Josh Freelove, Auraum Nuiriankh, and Corey Raley-Ross, Bowling Green's staff features the cuddly LaMonta Stone, who should feel the wrath of True Blue after his actions in the teams' first matchup this season.
Seriously, though, you need to be there. I'm flying in from DC to see it, so you have no excuse. Alumni has a capacity of 6,100, has topped 5k once this season, and hasn't sold out since... BYU? UConn? Pitt? I can't find records on ubbulls.com.
Anyway, Saturday. Rock and Roll.