Once again the MAC put us in a tough spot with both of UB's basketball teams playing at the same time.
And that's a damn shame, because the women played one of their best games of the year. Considering the competition, the MAC West-leading Western Michigan Broncos, and location, on the road in Kalamazoo, it may have been the best.
Anyway, the women won 55-44, a stifling defensive effort buttressed by a well-rounded offense. The men fell at home for the second straight game, 75-74 to Central Michigan, and have done a good deal of damage to their MAC seeding hopes and tiebreaker situation over this three-game losing streak.
I'll talk about the women first, because it's a win and it makes me happier, because there's more to say, and because hopefully some of you will read it before mindlessly scrolling down to the more popular team.
Women's Basketball: Won at WMU, 54-44
It's honestly easier to count the things that didn't go right: assists, turnovers and free throws. UB coughed the ball up 17 times to only four helpers and shot only 10-18 from the line. Neither of those stats were backbreaking, though, seeing as how WMU committed 21 turnovers and only made it to the line four times the whole game.
I know this is a horribly vague takeaway, but there's nothing to be upset with from the defense at all. The Broncos were 4-8 from distance in the first half, but only 1-6 in the second, and scored at the terrible rate of .66 PPP. UB held them to 29% shooting on a pretty consistent effort and also to FIVE separate scoring droughts of three minutes or more, including two that accounted for nine of the final 11 minutes of the game.
For all that defense, UB only committed 11 fouls to 13 steals. It's only the second time this year they've had more steals than infractions, and it's pretty rare for everyone. I wish I had video of this game.
Sure, UB's had games this season with three and four players in double-digits, but I don't think they've had one all year (short of maybe St. Francis) with such a balanced attack. The Bulls only scored 54, but had five players above five points.
It wasn't just lineup balance, either. UB scored from all over the floor. Mackenzie Loesing was 2-4 from three in one of her more efficient days in some time. Neither Kristen Sharkey nor Alexus Malone were their usual selves inside, but still combined for 10-23 shooting, better than the team average. Stephanie Reid didn't hit a shot from the field, but was a crucial 7-8 from the line.
Not a takeaway, but
Western Michigan was the #2 team in the conference before yesterday. UB has already stifled Ball State at #3 for a win, and they have another shot at both #1 Ohio and #4 Akron. Other than those two, the remaining four games come against the very bottom of the MAC in Kent (2), Bowling Green, and Miami, who have a combined five conference wins. With today's win Buffalo jumped out of the 6-5 logjam to 5th in the conference with no games remaining against teams at #6-8.
Akron's remaining schedule isn't too much tougher than Buffalo's, but both the MAC West teams have to play the streky middle of the conference. UB is in great shape to jump into the top four, and with a win over Akron, perhaps into the top two behind Ohio. Perhaps.
Men's Basketball: Lost 75-74 to Central Michigan
My favorite book is Moby-Dick, because I'm a huge dork. It's in my opinion one of the three greatest works of literature to be written originally in the English language. It's wonderful. But the narrator spends so much time talking about the sea and the whale as "inscrutable," "ineffable," "unknowable," etc etc. He's not wrong, not by a long shot, but there's a point where you want to get on with the philosophical passages on rope weaving and Ahab getting struck by lightning and whatnot.
That's how I feel about this team. We get it. Defense is an issue. Not being able to shoot from outside consistently is an issue. Not being able to function, at all really, in close games late is an issue. I feel like I don't have more to say that we haven't been saying for a month now. At this point let's just get our maniac, peg-legged captain to the fight with the whale.
Three point defense
It was good in the first half, but CMU's passes were crisper in the second, and Fowler started to demand more attention on his drives. When Kozinski is catching the ball at neck height, he's going to get shots off quickly.
89-57. In two games, that's how much CMU has outscored UB in the second half. Yesterday it came from a pack-the-lane defense that UB couldn't shoot over.
Killer instinct / toughness at the end
It's not just fatigue and eight guys. I'm not arguing that's not a huge factor, but there's nothing more to say on that particular point. In the final stretch, UB suddenly found some energy again to get within a possession, as they did against Akron. In the final minutes, Justin Moss scored a flurry of points. But it took until Toledo had all the momentum for this to happen.
Anyway, go Bulls.