As I said on Facebook: Wins are good. Healthy Jarryn Skeetes are good. Five Bulls in double figures is good. Tied for first in the MAC East is good.
You, loyal visitor to our actual site, deserve better analysis than that. And I'm already tired of introduction sentences, so here's takeaways from the win over NIU:
No need to worry about Skeete
In the hindsight narrative of this season, I have a feeling many will forget junior Jarryn Skeete returned from injury in the loss to WMU, where he struggled on defense and apparently with the speed of the game. That will be thanks to his performance Tuesday night.
The first three-point attempt didn't go so well; creating his own shot just isn't Jarryn's game, and he missed badly. After that, though, Skeete broke open the game, hitting three wide-open shots in about 70 seconds. I'm still concerned that Jarryn missed four games after we were first told he could have played through the injury, but I can't argue with Tuesday's results. It certainly seems like the ~50% 3PT-shooting Jarryn Skeete is here to stay.
Still not playing a full 40
It didn't get as dicey in the second half, as it did against Miami, but NIU was still able to build some momentum in the second half. Part of that, no doubt, is that Jordan Threloff saw more floortime after catching two quick fouls early, but while early in the season I was exciting about the "next gear" this team has when they need it, it's time for the team to play a full 40 minutes and not have me waiting for it.
Just like Miami, it's the defense we look to when talking about NIU's second half momentum. UB had a season-low 6 turnovers, and shot around 50% in both halves. The offense struggled in the final few minutes, but by then the game was over. The Huskies built their small amount of momentum by turning up their own scoring rather than really stopping Buffalo.
Again, Jordan Threloff got more time in the second. Part of me is concerned that he's not the only big guy in the MAC Justin Moss will have contend with, but another part of me recognizes that Moss regularly draws a ton of fouls, and that can be an effective tool to neutralizing opposing forwards.
Anyway, it was Johnson and Armstead, NIU's leading scorers on the night, who paced the Huskies in the second half, during which the visitors matched UB's 48% shooting percentage from the floor and put together roughly 1.16 OPPP, well above average. For comparison, UB in the second half was at 1.14 OPPP, but in the first half UB was at 1.31 to NIU's 0.63.
Undefeated at Alumni
Not enough is being made of the fact that UB is 18-1 at Alumni dating back to the start of last season. That alone is great, but after the road-heavy (to say the least) start to 2014-15, Buffalo really gets to work from a comfortable position the rest of the way; 15 games remain, and eight will be in Amherst. Compare that to just five of the first 15.
We've seen more road wins this year than in a long, long time, but UB is a different team at home. From now til Cleveland, they get to capitalize on that.
Frasco and Pino
This is what everyone wants to talk about. A few weeks ago, I looked at UB's short bench and minutes distribution. Given that Buffalo is on a string of home blowouts where the game is not really in question in the last four minutes, lots of people want Bobby Frasco and Christian Pino to see more time.
I am in part biased simply because the short rotation is such a difference from Reggie's nine, ten, and eleven-deep games, that I like what Hurley's doing. I understand the objections centered on fatigue or injury risk, but as far as I personally care to invest myself in it, Coach said after the Drexel game that he had settled in on his eight-man group and would be sticking to that, and so that's what I've got.
My only passionate take on it is that if Hurley isn't planning on using more than eight in a critical game towards the end of the season, I see no reason to put in subs for three or four minutes now. This team is clearly built in his image as a high-fitness ready to give maximum effort, and every individual needs to learn to do that for 40 minutes of game time, not 35.
But I know many of you disagree. Let's talk about it in the comments.