A 39-36 first half lead ballooned to as much as 18 as UB coasted to a 79-70 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas on Saturday night.
But the story of the game was Javon McCrea really showing off his stuff. I'll spoil it for you now: 25 points and 20 rebounds for the Kraken. The last time a Bull went 20/20? Yassin Idbihi in my fondest UB memory: the famous "no socks" game against Bowling Green in Idbihi's senior season.
Speed Racer - Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the opening minutes tonight was the pace, as UB headed into the first media time out with an 8-6 lead on the strength of 8 points in the paint - 6 from Javon McCrea and 2 from Will Regan. It seemed for the first half dozen possessions that every time UB got the ball Jarod Oldham was streaking up the floor, and the senior guard had two early assists to help the big men out.
On the flip side, Central Michigan used a press early in the first half to take an 11-8 lead shortly after the under-16 and UB's fortunes in the back and forth first half seemed to swing with their ability to combat the press, as CMU used two separate 8-0 runs to push the Bulls.
Three Point Defense - UB came into the game tops in the MAC and up there nationally in three-point defense, holding opponents to under 30% from outside the arc. Tonight would see a strength vs strength matchup when the Chippewas had the ball. CMU's first 6 points came on 2-3 shooting from distance.
Attacking CMUs D, Skeete and Shannon Evans combined to hit three consecutive triples to open up a 19-13 lead midway through. At the half CMU was 4-12 and UB 5-12 on three-point shots.
Many Happy Returns - Jarryn Skeete returned today from a knee injury. His first shot was a three to tie the game shortly before the under 12. Auraum Nuiriankh also returned from injury, providing some additional bench minutes to a team that has won and lost with the performance of the backcourt subs this season. While neither guard made a huge difference in his return, it was good to see them both healthy.
This One Goes to Eleven / Krakenwatch - UB's success in the first half was driven by a two-headed monster comprised of a dynamic freshman and all-time UB great in his senior season.
Shannon Evans blew past his season average of 8 points off the bench with a quick 11 on the strength of three long distance shots. I have been conflicted about the freshman so far this year, as he gets into the lane more frequently than any Bull since Rodney Pierce, but will also miss a lot of shots from the field. That wasn't an issue in the first half, as Evans scored 11 of UB's first 24 providing a big spark off the bench.
The other beast of burden for UB proved to be - who else - Javon McCrea, who was ALL UP IN CMU's GRILL early on, to the tune of 16 points and 5 boards at the final media time out.
Free Throws. - The most infuriating aspect of this team is ridiculous disparities from the free throw line. CMU made it to the bonus with over 6 minutes left in the half, while UB had not yet attempted a shot. Despite all the praises I've been singing, this continued to be a tight game at the half, in part because of CMU's 8 - 2 advantage in free points from the line.
Adventures in Pep Band - A bad, bad version of "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis from the CMU contingent. Basket Case is still the leader for this season. CMU just has too much drum and not enough brass to put out a solid product. Over the halftime break, they played a rendition of "Mirrors" by JT, and it took me most of the song to even figure out what it was.
Top Performers at the Half - Javon McCrea 16p, 7rb, 1blk, Shannon Evans 15pts
Both teams shot over 50% from the floor in the first half, and combined for just 8 turnovers. Unlike other close road games for the Bulls, this wasn't a case of UB playing down, but rather the Chips playing a solid game of basketball themselves.