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Buffalo 80, Drexel 70: Takeaways from the Bulls' Sixth Win of the Year

UB Athletics

As I said in the instant reactions piece, the Bulls' win over Drexel today is not as much of a positive omen as last year's victory over the Dragons, but it is nice to see for the second straight game UB only trail for the opening bucket before pulling away.

At the same time, it wasn't a dominant win like it could have been over a 2-6 team with a loss to Division II University of the Sciences. Given that the team didn't have a regular week of practice due to exams and were coming off a nine-day layoff, I don't think it's too troubling, but UB rode two strong four-minute runs - one in each half - to big leads when Drexel pulled close and otherwise played a bit sloppy at both ends, though still kept the visitors at bay by at least a couple possessions.

In addition to the raw numbers I threw out in the earlier piece, Bulls fans should be especially enthused by the play of guards Shannon Evans, Jarryn Skeete, and Lamonte Bearden, who combined for 32 points, 17 assists, and just 6 turnovers. The main focus from both the trio and their coach postgame was the development of the offense, which Hurley, while pleased, expects to improve by leaps and bounds by the beginning of conference play.

"We're going to execute on offense so much better a month from now than we even are right now. The guys are still learning where their shots are coming from, and we have a pretty extensive playbook of things that we're running on offense. It's evolving and getting better." Head Coach Bobby Hurley

The threesome of guards were similarly optimistic about playing with each other. Evans called back to learning under Jarod Oldham last year, and all three have never played on an offense where two guards can each put together 8 assists, as Evans and Bearden did today. Skeete, upon hearing that he's now shooting 48% from distance on the year noted that it makes it "easy. Just be ready to shoot, and the ball's coming to you."

Aside from that, Hurley noted on two occasions the effect of the nine-day layoff between games, during which exams disrupted the normal practice schedule. On one hand, the second-year coach said he was 'worried' about how the team would come out tonight, perhaps especially so after the women's early deficit last night. But on the other, Xavier Ford was able to use the layoff to his advantage, having been cleared to play after his concussion on the Monday following Buffalo's last game in Pittsburgh.

A few other notes, both from postgame and from the run of play during the game:

  • We got our firmest answer yet on the state of the UB rotation: Hurley is "settled in" with the eight-man rotation that he's been using and anticipates it being the norm through the season.
  • Raheem Johnson got only 9 minutes tonight in part because he's dealing with a knee injury.
  • All UB representatives expressed admiration of Drexel's Damion Lee, who led all scorers with 24 points, but took 21 shots to get there. Hurley called him "one of the best players that not a lot of people know about nationally," and was pleased with the defensive effort on the Dragons' leader
  • The Bulls came into this game a hair above their single-season program record in FT%, but didn't have a great day, shooting just 12-19 from the line. Wigginton in particular was just 2-5.
  • Drexel managed a similar shooting percentage as the Bulls, but UB has enjoyed strong three-point defense over the last year, and held the Dragons to just 4-17 from distance. The Bulls also got nine more shots from the floor.
  • In their last two games, both wins, UB has trailed by just 1:08 total. In both games they ceded the first basket and never trailed again.

UB quickly returns to action - thank goodness - on Friday. They will again be home in Alumni Arena, hosting the Niagara Purple Eagles at 7:00 PM. Niagara is not very good, just 1-6 with that lone win coming in a squeaker against St. Peter's, but they did beat the Bulls in an early-season matchup last year.

With a win, UB would move to 7-2 on the year; their best nine-game start since 2005, when the Bulls started 8-1.

Go Bulls!