Lots to write about tonight after a 67 - 46 win over NIU that seems pretty standard if you didn't follow the game in real time.
Quick Start - It appeared early on that I had nothing to worry about after the game against South Dakota was cancelled and UB was left with a ten day layoff. Northern Illinois is nowhere close to being even a good MAC team, but it's still impressive no matter the opposition when a team opens up a 7-0 lead at the first media timeout which balloons to 16-0 by 13:48. Northern Illinois did not score their first point until converting a foul shot at 13:01. Shannon Evans had 8 early on while Will Regan chipped in 6 to help build the lead.
Auraum in Early - Not a whole lot to say here, but it was nice to see Auraum Nuiriankh get an earlier look off the bench than he had been. I don't think he deserves to start as he did last year, but in the right roles the senior can be a valuable contributor to the team.
Javon on the Statsheet - You may forget in light of Javon's big day in Philadelphia that he only had 4 points at the break before exploding in the second half. Today Javon had only two at the first half, but still made his presence known with five huge blocks and four boards in his 18 minutes.
BYAH- On that note, UB topped their season average of 5 blocks per game in the first half alone, as Regan added a stop to McCrea's five.
Coach Hurley and Mr Hyde -
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times -
I couldn't decide on just one literary reference. After the first seven minutes, this half was nothing short of terrible, as we hit the break with UB leading 24-20. If you're good with the numbers like I am, that means NIU finished the half on a 20-8 run. Which is just disgusting.
The rest of the half featured many travels, a notable play where Freelove passed up two open shooters to run into the teeth of the NIU defense, and overall just sloppiness as Northern picked up the scraps of UB continuously shooting itself in the foot. Will Regan grabbed an offensive board and putback shortly before the final media timeout for UB's first field goal in nearly ten minutes. The Huskies really didn't do much right, except for their presence on the offensive glass, where they created second chances by grabbing 9 offensive rebounds.
The dying breaths of the first half resulted in some controversy, as an official's warning to both benches resulted in a loud "I'm talking to my team!" from Coach Hurley. After Shannon Evans was fouled while shooting, the refs also found a reason to assess a technical on Javon McCrea, and then Hurley would add a tech of his own with under 3 seconds left. There can't be more than a thousand fans in the building, but you could hear the boos loud and clear on the radio broadcast at the break.
First Four - You'll hear often from play by play men that coaches and teams try to break games down into four minute chunks, especially when they're trying to come back from a deficit. It was apparent coming out of the break that the first four minutes of the second half would be paramount in UB's contest against this feisty Northern Illinois team.
UB wasn't able to replicate their 16-0 run of the first half, but they did score on their first shot out of the break - a three and the first points of the night for Joshua Freelove. Over the next five minutes until the media break UB would open up its three point attack, adding one each from Jarod Oldham, Freelove again, and Will Regan in opening up a 38-27 lead that was bolstered by two additional blocks from Javon McCrea.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23UBBulls&src=hash">#UBBulls</a> have scored more points in the first five minutes of the second half (14) than they did in the last 14 of the first half (8).</p>— The Spectrum Sports (@ubspecsports) <a href="https://twitter.com/ubspecsports/statuses/421119692602757120">January 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Turnovers & Defense- Like I said in the first half, Northern Illinois in chipping away the UB lead didn't really play all that well, but rather just let UB do nothing for a while. As in the Drexel game, while the offense was unable to get anything going, the defense continued to swarm and put pressure on the other team. Northern Illinois came into tonight averaging only 13 turnovers per game, but eclipsed that in the first third of the second half on their way to 19 total.
It's a subtle thing that comes along with the up tempo offense, but Hurley's system puts a lot of pressure on the ball and helps itself out when the shots on offense aren't falling. It also seems to keep other teams from leaning on one guy. Darrell Bowie got into double digits tonight, but no one on NIU ever felt like a threat on the floor. The Huskies would only shoot 27% from the floor on the day
Will Regan - Just like Freelove's consistency and steady hand in past posts, there's almost not that much notable to say about Regan's day tonight, which is significant in its own right given how the transfer forward started the season. Regan finished the day with 15 points and 6 boards, and appears to have refound the magic that made him such a threat in the final few games of last season.
Jarryn Skeete on the Boards... - Did you know that Skeete is third on the team in rebounds? This was a surprise to me. UB guards have racked up the rebounding numbers in the past - Jarod Oldham, Calvin Betts, and Greg Gamble come to mind - but Skeete is comfortable getting down low into traffic and fighting with the big guys, to the tune of 8 rebounds - tied with Javon for the team lead - tonight.
... and on the scoreboard - Five straight from the sophomore, on a tough three and a fast break helped UB avoid another mid-half slump in building a 15 point lead with 8 to play. Jarryn has been up and down this season in a slightly reduced role from last year, but filled in the gaps in UB's lineup and production perfectly tonight.
Taking care of business - The final five minutes or so - and really, the whole second half - were about what you'd expect but feared wouldn't come to fruition after the Way Things Were in the first. UB flirted with a 17 point lead as the game wound down, limited the mistakes that plagued them in the first half, and played their game en route to their first conference win and a 21 point final margin. McCrea, even with four fouls, continued to pour it in and leave no doubt about the better team tonight. Even the refs faded from view after that wild end to the first half.
Stats of the Game - Blocks. I almost expected Howard Dean to make a personal appearance. Mitchell Watt and Sam Pellom would be proud. McCrea would ultimately tie his career high of 8, and the team as a whole doubled their season output.
60. This is now the third straight game where UB's defense has held the opposition to under 60 points on the night.
UB next hosts a strong Eastern Michigan team on Saturday at 2:00 PM in Alumni Arena.