In the middle of a season, fans are prone to get worried about long term trends. Sometimes an ugly win isn't good enough, because the high-pressure postseason is lingering on the horizon and you know that ugly play won't be enough. But when the postseason comes, it doesn't matter how ugly as long as you get it done.
UB just didn't get it done tonight. Short of Josh Freelove they were beat up and down the floor when they didn't show up ready to play.
Slow Start - EMU just has a thing for ugly basketball. After needing all twenty minutes of the second half and a 3-21 shooting performance from NIU yesterday, play opened today with the two teams combining for 0-8 from the field. EMU doesn't play the fastest pace and might not have been as worn out as you'd hope by their game last night, but UB not being able to take an advantage out of the gate didn't bode well
FREELOVE - The senior transfer was all there was for UB both early and late, combining with Will Regan for UB's first 9 points. We'll come back to Freelove.
And Karrington Ward - One of EMU's powerful frontcourt, Ward scored 10 quick points in the early going, as his three tied it up at 9 on the way to a 15-9 EMU lead. Through this stretch in particular, the Bulls seemed to be the team struggling with their opponents' pace.
Release...the Kraken? - Javon McCrea did not have a good start to the game. Starting 0-6 from the floor, he also had trouble from the line. His 3rd point on the night - and 2000th of his career - came from the line later in the game, but it took six opportunities to get there. McCrea did enjoy a presence on the glass, as UB missed shots left and right, and had 9 boards at the half.
Defense - Nothing really to say here, other than the defense did a good job to keep things within reach while the offense tried to find its bearings. If it didn't feel that way to you, take a look again at just how much the offense struggled.
McCrea and Moss - With EMU's size up front, Javon can either cover Riley's length or Bryant's power but can't handle both at once. Last night I advocated getting both McCrea and Moss on the floor at the same time, and when the moment finally came, UB got 5 quick points to get within two at 24-26.
Basketball-like substance - UB finished the half on a 13-3 run and took a 3 point lead. It felt great at the time, but I'm writing this at the end of the game so its just futile now.
Key Stat: UB shot 8/16 from three, but just 2/16 from inside the arc
Freelove!!!!! - Um, what? An absolutely unreal performance for Josh Freelove tonight, who hit his EIGHTH three-pointer with 16:43 to play in the game. The former Toledo Rocket is on his third team in his last season of eligibility, and clearly didn't want to go home. Unfortunately, no one else ever really showed up to
Guard Composure - Freelove showed up, but we didn't really get significant contributions from anyone else in the backcourt. Shannon Evans got two quick fouls in the first half, and after a rough looking injury to Jarryn Skeete, was looking at playing significant minutes in the second half while in foul trouble. Ultimately, Evans would foul out without registering a point or an assist.
Meanwhile, Jarod Oldham had 8 assists, but that's about all the positive there is to say, as the senior guard pitched in four turnovers and shot just 3 of 10 from the field. Oldham has never been a great scorer, and forced far too many shots today when they weren't falling from other player.
Not Over Yet - It's hard to remember here on the other side, but Freelove's antics help UB stake out a ten point lead before the halfway mark of the final stanza. As you might expect if you've watched this team on their off nights, EMU was able to chip away at the lead. A 7-0 run by Darrell Combs and a Karrington Ward three marked a 10 point run by the Eagles to tie it up.
Bonus Ball - Both teams entered the bonus with a lot of time to play, and it looked like it would come down to free throws. This really wasn't the best news for UB, who was just 11-18 from the line on the game.
Waiting... - The flip in attitude from waiting for UB to turn things on to realizing it wasn't going to happen was excruciating. EMU marked their largest lead of the second half with 4:50 to play at 59-55, and soon raised it to a five point differential. When UB was not able to answer at all before the two minute mark, it felt inevitable.
WTF Stat of the Game: There's not much more to say about Buffalo's struggles inside against EMU's size... except this, which seems the most unbelievable yet: UB grabbed 15 offensive rebounds but managed just four second half points.
As with the women, everything that has gone wrong over the course of the season all happened at once tonight:
- one dimensional guard play
- caught in a tight game for too long away from home
- take the foot off the gas with a significant second half lead
- poor FT shooting
- inability to step up the intensity
So that's that.