BUFFALO, NY - The Bulls are a much improved team from when Bobby Hurley first sat on the bench in his first game back on Nov. 8. They've managed win games, and keep their head above water when it's looked disastrous.
After taking care of business in their first conference game against Northern Illinois last Wednesday, they stretched their winning streak to four with a 76-66 win over Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon in front of 2,616 at Alumni Arena.
The way the Bulls won, was something unfamiliar to this year's team. This type of win, where toughness and resiliency has been on display, has been teasing it's debut since the Bulls took down Drexel in late December. The Bulls mustered up all the toughness and fight they had in them to take down a tough Eastern Michigan team, who had played the likes of Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, and UMass.
Trailing by two with 5:26 remaining, sophomore Jarryn Skeete was fouled on a three-point attempt and connected on all three freebies. That sparked a 13-3 UB run to put them ahead by eight.
After Eastern was able to cut the deficit in half on their next two possessions before Skeete again came up big, this time with a dagger three-pointer which propelled the Bulls to reach their largest lead of the game, 12, en route to the victory.
"We just had to keep getting stops," said Skeete who tied a career-high with 19 points. "That's all it was really about. Get the stop and then we were in transition and then Shannon (Evans) would take over in the open floor."
Both Skeete and freshman Shannon Evans were able to take over in the final stages of the second half as Evans had scored all five of his points, and added three assists and one steal over the final 4:51.
Skeete has thrived since embracing his role coming off of the bench and today was an example of that as the Bulls bench outscored the Eagles' 29-4.
"I thought it was a heck of a game," said Hurley. "Eastern is a talented team. Their record is reflective that they've played some of the best teams in the country and played them pretty competitive and they're going to factor in certainly as the season goes on. So it was a great test for our team today. I thought we did a great job defensively and creating turnovers."
The Bulls forced 17 Eastern Michigan turnovers while only committing eight themselves. The Eagles came into the contest with a +3.6 turnover margin, ranking third in the MAC.
The Bulls and Eagles were knotted at 30 at halftime, and it was the easy buckets and defensive stops that improved in the second half to lead the Bulls to a critical win.
"At halftime, coach told us to attack and be aggressive," said Evans. "My shot was off so I tried to get to the rim and create for others. So I just tried to get in the lane and look for my other players like Skeete, and Jarod (Oldham) and Will (Regan), they can make shots as well."
Oldham finished with 11 points, seven assists, and four rebounds, while Regan finished with 11 points. Javon McCrea picked up his sixth double-double of the season.