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Buffalo Bulls 79, Miami Redhawks 72: Takeaways from the MAC Opener

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed UB's MAC-opening win over Miami on the road last night, head on over to last night's recap and read about it.

UB played a good-to-great 20 minutes and a mediocre-to-bad 20 minutes in the win, one of those games that has me middling and really unsure how to feel. The optimist's view is one that looks at the wire-to-wire lead and the overall body of work through 13 games, and does not view the second half as part of something bigger. The pessimist's view sees shadows of seasons past and a slightly weak nonconference schedule exposed by MAC play.

At the very least, it's a road win in conference play, and gets the Bulls started on the right foot.

Here's five takeaways I have a little more to say about than I put down in words last night:

Still no Skeete

This has me frankly a bit annoyed. The word before Wisconsin was that Jarryn had rolled his ankle in practice and "would have played if it were a MAC game." I was not surprised to see him out against Binghamton. Before the Cornell game the language changed to "would play in a game that matters."

Obviously we didn't see the junior sharpshooter last night. I find it hard to believe that a rhythm shooter would be kept out of a game if he could go, and goodness knows UB could have used them as things went south and the Bulls shot 2-6 from distance in the second half.

Over the last ten days, Skeete's ankle injury has been presented as day-to-day without those words being used. I don't expect to find out injury specifics, and UB has a legal obligation not to disclose medical information. But in the fall while we didn't hear anything about Laura Dougall and Tahleia Bishop's injuries, we also weren't misled as to their severity.

That said, I fully expect to see Jarryn on the floor Saturday against Western Michigan.

The offense wasn't the problem

Sure compared to the first half, the second half wasn't as smooth, and to the eye it looked a lot like a few years ago, when it felt like the ball just traveled around the perimeter without any player movement before a forced shot, but the UB offense actually was still ok, efficiency-wise, in the second half, shooting 50% from the floor and scoring 37 points on 36 offensive possession. Generally, anything about 1.00 OPPP is average.

Of course the Bulls threw away 10 of their possessions on turnovers, and barely generated any assists, but when it came to producing points, it was merely an average, not bad, performance that felt like a letdown given the team's normal baseline.

So what happened to the defense?

It happened at offensive end too, but UB lost their interior game. Miami hit 5-14 three-point attempts in the second half, but hit 62.5% of their shots from inside the arc. I'm not an X's and O's guy and had my attention diverted by the women's game, twitter, and working on the recap, so I'm not sure what exactly happened, but UB had 0 blocks in the second half and gave up 5 offensive boards.

Miami went hard with their starters after the break and those five combined for all 46 Redhawk points, each shooting better than 50%.

Reminder: the guards are still young

This kind of thing is bound to happen when you start to get excited about a young player, but Bearden and Evans both struggled noticeably tonight.

Within the box score, the two combined for 9 of UB's 15 turnovers and just 3-16 shooting from the field. Evans did add 5 assists, but Bearden did little except for 3-4 from the line. Each also racked up four fouls. It should be said that the sophomore, as he did last year, put up a notable point total thanks to 7 made free throws. It's significant that he finds a way to score no matter what.

Off the box score, both Evans and Bearden struggled with Miami's aggressive defense, getting caught multiple times in high traps after crossing the time line at half court. That's something you'll often see younger players have an issue with, but that doesn't make it less painful within a game.

Thank goodness for Will Regan

I've written a good bit about Regan this season as the style of play shifts again from last year. Last night, as the senior scored 13 and pulled down 9 rebounds, was one of those nights I talked about early in the year where UB doesn't win if he doesn't hit double digits.

But it's not really about the raw numbers; it's about his two three pointers, each coming at critical times to help the Bulls maintain a slight lead long enough to get into hit-your-free-throws time. The first came out of a Buffalo timeout to rebuild the lead to 69-60, and the second was perhaps the biggest play of the game, two and a half minutes later.

Miami had closed to 69-67 and called a timeout to capitalize on the momentum, but Regan hit a three after UB worked the shot clock into single digits and converted the and-one. Though the Redhawks answered with another three, that four-point play sent the Bulls into the final minute and change with a multiple-possession lead.

His teammates frequently acknowledge his leadership and role on the team when speaking postgame, and today, more than many times this season, we saw on the court just how important Will is to this team.

Bonus: Free Throws

Miami bad, UB good, and that really was the difference as it got closer late. But more importantly, I want to point out that UB hit 78% from the line tonight and are now at 74.0% on the season. The program record is 74.1%