I didn't see a minute of UB's thrilling 89-84 win over Central Michigan until 2:00 PM yesterday, when I started this post.
Sure, I turn on ESPN3, and have the video up somewhere, but writing an instant recap - last night, it was two - and manning Twitter demands most of my attention. Since I moved away from Buffalo to look for work elsewhere in mid-January, I usually rely more on live stats, which are faster and usually help me keep up with other media entities who are watching the game live.
In closer games, like last night, I barely get to watch at all. The video just sits somewhere behind everything else and I listen to the commentators. It is, especially in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, a joy to rewatch the games on ESPN3 after the fact.
Now that I've managed that, here are some takeaways from last night.
Keno vs Bobby
One of the most frustrating stats of the season for me was a simple one: In two regular season wins, Central Michigan outscored Buffalo 89-57 in the second half, usually capitalizing out of timeouts. I brought it up and Keno Davis' pedigree in postgame pieces for each of the recaps.
Saturday, Bobby won the battle. Central Michigan couldn't burn the Bulls from distance because they couldn't get any space: Buffalo's switches were crisp and instantaneous, and UB was willing to do it rather than fight through screens even it meant Justin Moss guarding Chris Fowler. Fowler alone wasn't able to win the game.
UB, on the other hand, shot great from distance, especially in the second half, when they were 5-9. All five stuck out to me on the rewatch, each making it more and more clear that the Bulls were going to win this game.
Shannon Evans hit the first to end a 4-0 CMU run that opened the half. I thought, "Keno's adjustments aren't perfect."
The second, from Will Regan moments after an atrociously unfair foul, gave UB a 53-50 lead with over 14 minutes to play. That's when I knew this team wasn't going to fade away and were going to force CMU to play even better.
Evans again hit the next one. With 7:58 to play, Buffalo had the largest lead of the game at 66-60. Suddenly, it was a question of holding onto a lead rather than building it up.
A few moments later, Ford hit one and the lead was seven. It was the sixth straight possession that ended in points for the Bulls. Seven points and six minutes and the Bulls were looking stronger and stronger.
2:17 left, Jarryn Skeete. Nine points. Don't be stupid and let's start celebrating.
A friend of mine who hadn't seen a UB game all season and isn't a fan of the school sent me a text mid-second half:
"They can't stop your offense, Evans looks like Rondo right now, and Fowler can't do it on his own."
At the time I was still guarding against the letdown, so I didn't believe it. On the rewatch, it couldn't be more clear. Buffalo went eight straight possessions with points, and 18 straight without a turnover in the second half. Watching the game instead of pounding at my keyboard, the Bulls weren't just finding the space in the CMU defense, they were dictating where on the court it was going to be. Central couldn't do a thing.
You will simply never see a more balanced game than that one. Six Bulls scored in double-figures, Rodell had eight, and Raheem Johnson only had three minutes of floortime. You can recall a highlight for each and every one of the guys:
Justin Moss - 3:49 to go in the first, muscles through for an and-one. He wasn't himself, but Buffalo found a way to use him and succeed around him.
Shannon Evans - Any of his drives in the second half with that behind-the-back-fake.
Jarryn Skeete - The off-balance three in the first half, or the long two in the second
Lamonte Bearden - The slam at the end, or the steal and wide-open score a few minutes earlier
Rodell Wigginton - The oop
Will Regan - That three
Xavier Ford - Everything.
This team over the last eight games has learned how to win, however they need to. Friday they seemed to struggle with the expectations of playing a tired Akron team, but Saturday they came out loose and relaxed, and played their game. Here's hoping there's a similar vibe around the team Friday at 2:10 PM.