It's not often in college basketball that a team gets a full week off between games. It's also not often that a team has games cancelled in consecutive seasons due to weather.
(I know the Montana State game is technically 'postponed,' but we all know how that's going to turn out.)
Coming off a strong second half in their win a week ago against Texas-Arlington, UB looked to get a second road win before the Big 4 Classic this coming Saturday, and used a huge first half and strong defense to top the Antelopes 80-64. The hosts never got closer than 10 in the second, but it certainly felt dicey at times.
I was leery of this game, especially given GCU's two major-conference transfers in the starting lineup, but UB's first possession set the tone for the entire first half when Lamonte Bearden hit Jarryn Skeete for an early three.
UB would light it up from the floor, and especially from distance, in the first half. At the break UB was shooting 61%, including 54% on 7-13 from three-point range. It was a delight to watch as multiple players had strong individual performances:
Shannon Evans was the star early, with 10 points including a personal 8-0 run prior to the first media timeout. GCU would fight back from the 19-10 deficit to get within two before UB pulled away again. At the end of that run the Antelopes had an 11-7 advantage on the boards.
Jarryn Skeete was perfect throughout the half, and Justin Moss had six straight points late in the stanza to help UB run away. Neither missed a shot from the floor before halftime. When Will Regan started to get involved, as well, the Bulls threatened to lead by 20 at the half.
Buffalo's real advantage came in overall quickness: In the half UB had a 20-14 advantage in paint and a 9-3 advantage in assists, led by Evans and Xavier Ford (?!), who each had three.
The one negative: Fouls. GCU fought back in the dying minutes in part because they got 11 chances from the line, and fully five Bulls had two infractions. UB was 0-2 from the line while GCU 7-11 in that first session.
At the Half
Buffalo led at the break 45-32, though if not for that late run it could have been much worse. Other than shooting and what I highlighted above, most everything was dead even.
The second half was all Justin Moss early, as Antelopes starting center Kerwin Smith picked up his fourth foul early and UB's forward scored the team's first eight points of the half. With fifteen minutes to play UB was already in the bonus and Moss had joined Skeete and Evans in double-figure scoring.
We had a bit of discussion about this in the gamethread, as Moss still had all of UB's points in the half with seven to play, so I've attached a poll below to continue the conversation. Really, for the first two media sections, UB maintained their lead and did it with Moss, even as the game and their shooting cooled down significantly: both teams were under 30% shooting in the half.
Two noticeable weaknesses for UB in this game were fouls and rebounding. The Bulls were simply atrocious for a six-minute second-half stretch in each. The second media timeout saw GCU on an extended period of strong play that saw the Antelopes push half-dozen Bulls to three our more fouls, own the offensive glass, and push Buffalo to the most uncomfortable 10-point deficit I've seen in a while.
Once Buffalo started to hit some free throws, UB got a very quick 11-0 run to re-extend the lead, but could just not finish things off, even though they maintained a double-digit lead, thanks to the ridiculous foul trouble. Lamonte Bearden was the first to hit five, but Hurley stayed with his main rotation all the way to the end even as GCU regained momentum, if not the lead.
Someone pointed out on Twitter that freshman Mory Diane didn't even seem to be on the bench. I did not get a close enough look, but the second half tonight would have been a great time to use him. He hasn't played in the regular season after a strong exhibition against Wheeling Jesuit.
The Antelopes would again start missing shots and suddenly there was just not enough time left, and UB coasted to an 80-64 win
In happier stats, three Bulls hit double-digit scoring, led by Moss' career-high 26. Jarryn Skeete had an early 14 and Evans' 23, though his first point in the second half came on a free throw with just under three minutes to play. Justin just missed on a double-double, with 9 boards.
UB did not hit a three-pointer in the second half, but still shot above 50% from the floor for the game and ended up at 71% from the line after a rough start. Even the rebounds got back to about even by the end.
UB next plays this Saturday in the second Big 4 Classic, held downtown at the First Niagara Center. All four teams involved will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired throwback jerseys. UB-Canisius will be the second game of the doubleheader, tentatively scheduled for 4:15 after the conclusion of the 2:00 Niagara-St. Bonaventure matchup.