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Buffalo Bulls 80, Kent State Golden Flashes 55: #BlackoutAlumniArenaTakeaways

This guy, man.
This guy, man.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was great, just so, so great. I usually am able to watch and tweet and prep postgame pieces all at the same time, but social media was so off the walls that I had to rewatch the game after to get a good picture of what actually happened.

It was still awesome.

It won't be very useful to just bombard you with happy numbers, because as much as we want it to be so, this isn't the team we're going to get every night. Though, if True Blue can approximate that over and over again, maybe we can get close.

Knowing that a list of happy numbers wouldn't make a good post, I'm sticking with more qualitative takeaways for this one.

Perimeter Defense

After a few straight opponents had strong days from outside, I was concerned. Last night couldn't have been better, as Kent shot just 5-21 from three, and 2-10 in the first half while the game was being won.

It wasn't just strong defense on the shooters, either. Devereaux Manley could not find any space, and UB consistently met the ball high in the backcourt with strong pressure. Of 55 points on the night, Kent found 38 of them from the paint or the line despite taking at least 25 shots from outside the lane.

Look at the Mop Guy vine for proof of this: that wonderful gift to humanity happened because Rodell Wigginton pressured a simple handoff and burst through the exchange. It's not Mop Guy's fault Kent State wasn't ready for UB.

Secondly, when you rewatch the game on ESPN3 (at least the first half), watch Wigginton and Jarryn Skeete. Their execution when they had to switch assignments was perfect. Kent ran all sorts of screens to try to get someone open and couldn't do it because Rodell and Jarryn covered it every time.

Above all else, this is why UB won the game.

Attacking the Zone Defense

Gone are the days of worrying about the two Bowling Green matchups every year, because this team knows how to attack the zone. Three plays in particular come to mind; the one above, where you spread the defense by hitting outside shots (and breaking a few ankles along the way), and the Jarryn Skeete three from the corner early in the second half to answer a Kent three.

On that play, Skeete ran from a high ball screen in front of the ESPN guys across the court from Coach Hurley right through the heart of the defense. You can actually watch every guy he passes make note of him, then pass him off to the next one, until he passes the end of the line, and no one follows.

I don't have video of it now, but I hope it will be in the UB-produced highlights. It's not about hitting the shot (though that helps), it's about the high energy movement that gets that look. You see it especially from Bearden, Wigginton, Skeete, and Johnson, and not just in the half-court offense.

The Emotional Lift

I'm not going to go all Buffalo News BASS PRO SHOPS COMING TO CANALSIDE 9/11 font with this one, but last night was exactly what the doctor ordered on so many levels.

First, as a team and the play on the court. For maybe the sixth time this season (UK, UW, Cornell, NIU, WMU(?)) we saw the team that can win the MAC and honestly win games in the Big Dance. For the first time this season we saw that team for a full two halves. UB even outscored Kent in the second.

I loved the focus throughout. Other MAC fans on Twitter were laughing at Hurley going bonkers when the team gave up a lazy three up 23, but I love it. Step on the throat. There's no one after those main eight if someone's having an of night or takes plays off.

Secondly, as an on-campus event, could you ask for anything better? Nearly 2,500 students came out, many for the first time, so much so that they had to be filtered into the 300s. With all respect to the football team, this wasn't Baylor where you come out for the big stage and then the shoe drops. This was the big stage and it became a celebration. If even half of those students still think it's worth their time - and why wouldn't they - things are going to be really fun heading into March.

Thirdly, this:

I know it's cheesy, and like I said, no 9/11 font, but this could be a huge turning point for everyone involved. At worse, it's an incredible glimpse into what UB can be each and every game. WGR is willingly giving the team airtime. TBN published a 111-photo album online. For 3 hours late last night, helped my #UBMopGuy, the team was the talk of the town.

A little over nine years ago, my first UB game of any sort was the Ohio revenge game in 2006. Yassin was 10-12 from the floor, the then-Mighty Maniacs were rocking*, and Buffalo shot 66% for the GAME, including 77% in the second half. They only had two offensive rebounds because they only missed 13 shots.

*so much so that Reggie had to calm then down before the next game

That game absolutely hooked me, and those of us with longer memories have been chasing the dragons of that game, UNC in 1999 (Reggie's first game, and a halftime lead!), Pitt, UConn, and BYU. The first MAC playoff win over NIU in 2003. There is no doubt in my mind that for many in attendance last night is a new dragon.

Game Leaders

Points Xavier Ford (25) Jimmy Hall (9)
Rebounds Ford, Justin Moss (9) Khaliq Spicer (6)
Assists Shannon Evans, Rodell Wigginton (4) Jimmy Hall (2)
Blocks Raheem Johnson (4) Spicer (3)
Steals Ford (3) Derek Jackson (2)