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Buffalo Bulls Basketball: Takeaways from Men's, Women's wins over Canisius and Illinois State

Both UB basketball teams were victorious on Saturday; the men in Buffalo, and the women in Miami.

UB Athletics

In addition to UB's easy victory over an overmatched Canisius team in the Big 4 Classic today downtown, the Women's Basketball team finished their Thanksgiving-week road trip with a win in Miami over Illinois State. I already hit the nuts and bolts of the men's game, linked above, but haven't spoken about the women's side of the coin at all. Here's six takeaways from a very successful day in UB Basketball.

Lamonte Bearden: Better than Advertised?

When Bobby Hurley secured the commitment of Bearden, he turned heads of recruitniks around the country, who pronounced the get one of the biggest steals of the year. Bearden was considered an upper-echelon point guard recruit by many services, and was by some ranked in the top 30 at the position.

The player we're seeing early in 2014-15 may be bigger than the hype. Take a look at this comparison

Game 1 Points Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5 Rebounds per game Assists per game
Player A 0 5 4 7 13 2.2 2.4
Player B 8 8 8 8 23 2.8 3.2


Player A is Shannon Evans as a freshman in 2013. Player B is Bearden as a freshman in 2014.

Bearden has made it clear he belongs in D1 ball, scoring 8 points in each of his first four games and even leading the Bulls in assists with at the half against Kentucky. He's getting a few more minutes per game than Evans did behind Josh Freelove and Jarod Oldham, but is topping #11's freshman stats when you convert them to rate stats, anyway.

Today, Bearden was impressive in all facets, but especially in the lane. Rather than bull into a forest of arms and bigger players, Lamonte showed that he can score in a number of ways, and consistently got shots off and into the bucket from whatever position or direction he was heading. It was seriously impressive.

Evans last year hit his stride at the beginning of MAC play. Sometimes good for a game in the high teens, he was always around double-digits, if not hitting ten points consistently. There's always the potential for a freshman new to the college season to fall off, but Evans didn't but for a few games in December.

Bearden has already topped Evans' best output from 2013. If he just matches Evans' freshman season, UB's backcourt will not just be one of the youngest in the MAC - it will be one of the best.

Kristen Sharkey: Same old, same old

UB's Women's Basketball team has been missing senior captain Christa Baccas for four games now. Today fellow captain Kristen Sharkey did the work of both, tallying 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals and carrying UB to what head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack called "an ugly win" over Illinois State in the consolation game of the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament.

The best part is, this isn't really a surprise. The Shark memorably hit 30 points twice in three games last year and hit 20 nine more times en route to 14.6 points per game on the season. It isn't a stretch to put her in the very upper echelon of MAC post players. If you only casually follow the women's team and don't know Sharkey's name, you should change that.

Up Close

Reviews are mixed on the men's post play; they're quick and large, but there's a noticeable drop-off from Javon McCrea. The women, on the other hand, are exceedingly good on the boards and will rarely get outworked.

Beyond the post players, though, both teams will get a lot down close to the rim. Between the two squads UB scored 78 points in the paint today, and not just from Sharkey, Alexus Malone, and Justin Moss' patented 6-0 run that he always seems to bust out around a media timeout.

I've said time and time again in praise of Shannon Evans that UB hasn't seen someone reliably attack the rim since Rodney Pierce, and I think I can put that reminiscing aside now. Even if the bigs don't do it, UB is going to get close-up points this year.

Both teams played their opponents about even in rebounds but had advantages on second-chance points, and Xavier Ford and Raheem Johnson combined for 7 blocks out of some very high-energy defense.

Getting Cleaner

Feels like beating a dead horse with the women's time, but we've got to keep paying attention to fouls. Today they stayed in excellent shape, committing just 14 and getting five more chances from the line than Illinois State. Karin Moss and Sharkey each had four, but the forward played 39 minutes, so what can you do?

The men are less foul-prone, but today's game was notably clean, regardless. After the serious foul trouble in Arizona, UB had few issues today, sending the Golden Griffins to the line just 12 times.

Good to have multiple options

I've already highlighted Bearden and Sharkey, but their performances look even better - and more critical - when I point out that Shannon Evans and Mackenzie Loesing had 7 points today. Combined. Both Evans and Loesing have had stretches where many shots turn into few points in their career, and today may end up being the lowest-scoring game of the year for each.

Loesing in particular is in one heck of a slump: since shooting 3-20 from the floor against Niagara the junior really hasn't had a good game. Today she was just 1-13 from the floor, including 0-7 from three point distance. The good(ish) news is that Loesing's too good for this to go on forever, and I wouldn't dream of limiting her minutes right now, but hopefully she shoots out of the slump soon.

Double doubles

Just one for each team today, but they came from the usual suspects: Alexus Malone was once again excellent, with 19 points and 11 boards, while Justin Moss scored 12 points in 15 minutes in the second half, finishing with 18 and 12 boards. UB may very well have a double double in every single game for the rest of the year.

***

Some general, other stats: The men shot 48% from the floor despite just 27% from three-point range. The women had a season-low 11 turnovers and added 12 steals.

Bonus: Jim Baron is now the 10th-losingest coach in NCAA history. Good for him.

Both teams next play on the road in the middle of next week: The men make the short road trip to Olean for another Big Four matchup against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, while the women head to Ithaca to take on Cornell on Thursday.

Go Bulls!