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Buffalo Bulls 88, Toledo Rockets 92: Defense goes missing in crushing home loss


I'll start this exactly the same way the game did. In the time it will take you to click this link, let the video buffer, and come back here, Bobby Hurley was called for a technical. If that sounds strange to you, well yep. If you think it - and two early fouls on Xavier Ford - would have a demoralizing effect on the team, well yep.

(That link is NSFW, but I can't imagine another reason any ref would feel it necessary to call a T in 51 seconds. It was a reputation call, plain and simple, and it neutered Bulls early.)

I had all sorts of ledes written for this one, a classic tight game full of momentum swings, but the difference in this game when all was said and done was a Toledo run of nine straight made shots that kept them in front of the home team in the waning minutes of the Rockets' 92-88 win.

Prior to that run, UB used a late run in the first half to close a massive Rocket lead and a 14-3 blitz out of the break to make for an electric second half.

I came out of Saturday's road loss to the Akron Zips still feeling alright about UB's chances for a conference tournament bye this season. After all, one game out of first with five home games over the last eight isn't a bad place to be in.

As the weekend waned, I found myself with much different feeling about tonight's contest against the Rockets. UB still has another shot to help their tiebreaker relationship with the Zips, but will now not be able to pass Toledo in a tie unless there's a multiple-team tie.

The easy storyline for UB lately has been their perimeter defense, and Toledo's big lead early was built on 4-4 shooting from distance. They would finish an incredible 12-14 from beyond the arc. Even inside, there was no shortage of offense tonight in a matchup between the MAC's two leading scorers. Former roommates Julius Brown and Justin Moss each had their successes, with Brown pouring in 25 for the visitors and Moss a career-high 33 for UB.

There's not much analysis to be had in the first half; UB didn't shoot well, didn't rebound well, didn't defend well. The differences in the second half were numerous, even if it remained tight, but I'll highlight in particular the defense's ability to force turnovers. After just six in the first stanza, Buffalo got back into the game on the strength of eight from the Rockets in the first ten minutes.

At the end of the day, though, Toledo hit above 80% from three and finished the game hitting 12 of their last 13 shots and took the win. The takeaways tomorrow are going to be easy: if you don't want to play defense, you don't have to, but you're not going to go very far.

Buffalo remains at home this weekend, with a Saturday game against Central Michigan. You guessed it - UB's biggest challenge is going to be containing the Chippewas from outside. Because it's at home, because right now CMU has the H2H tiebreaker, because the top of the conference isn't slowing down, it's an absolute must-win for the Bulls. At 6-5 now, they need a big run to claim even a top-four seed in the MAC.

Go Bulls