This morning, just 40 minutes into the MAC season, it was hard to know how much to draw from UB's Jeckyll-and-Hyde win over Miami.
On one hand, we've seen 11 games of strong play from the Bulls with just a single injury-fueled letdown. On the other, it would take a heck of a year from multiple teams for the MAC to get multiple NCAA bids, so those 12 OOC games don't mean much. After all, the last time Buffalo started this strong, they limped to a losing conference record.
This afternoon's 78-68 loss in Kalamazoo shouldn't come close to settling the argument, but it was bad enough that many of you will decide the team is doomed. The crucible of a road-heavy schedule might be catching up to UB as the Blue and White came out extremely slow in the first twenty and never found even a mediocre shooting touch. Justin Moss was the only Bull to have a positive impact, notching his eighth double-double of the year with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Western Michigan, the defending MAC Champion, returned four starters this season, but without Shayne Whittington has struggled to find chemistry, and dropped their MAC opener by 20 to Akron despite shooting 43% from distance. Today, none of that was a concern. The Broncos started hot: 7-7 from the floor, cruised to an eight-point lead at the break, and continually shut the door even when UB got close(ish) in the second half. Do-everything junior Connar Tava had a bit a down game for him, but still scored 12 and had 7 rebounds.
UB was strong from the free throw line, shooting 26-35 thanks to 13-16 from Moss, as the referees were a big presence, but that was the only place the Bulls found success. This game was lost in Buffalo's 13 turnovers and only 3 assists. UB simply followed up their uninspiring second half against Miami with an awful game on both ends, trailing by seven for much of the first half, and never getting closer than six in the second.
After missing two weeks to a rolled ankle, Jarryn Skeete returned to action this afternoon, but did not start. The junior looked rusty at both ends in live action, and late in the second half went to the bench clearly having issues with his ankle.
I could identify a matchup that went wrong, but it wasn't WMU. Rather, UB was foiled by the basket in one of the worst shooting performances you'll see. UB started around 30% and stayed there even despite occasional spurts to pull within two possessions.
Just two Bulls; Moss and Evans, had done any scoring of note by halftime, though both were in double digits. Evans would finish with 23 himself, but did it on 8-22 shooting bolstered by two late threes, and had next to no secondary stats. Lamonte Bearden might be hitting a bit of a wall; after no field goals against Miami, the freshman was just 1-5 today, and Will Regan was a nonfactor, fouling out with 1 point and 3 boards on 0-3 shooting, all from distance.
In addition to Tava, WMU got solid production from Austin Richie, David Brown, and Tucker Haymond, who all hit double-digits. None of the Broncos' stats stand out, other than hitting nearly 50% from the floor
The Bulls, who have now had three separate three-game win streaks ended by road losses, will return home Wednesday night to face off against another MAC West opponent in Northern Illinois at 7:00 PM. The Huskies, prior to this evening's game against Kent State, are 7-5, but have played almost no one, with their lone road win coming against Ohio after losses to Eastern Illinois and Dartmouth.