UB won after a slow start. That's exciting. Tim joins the takeaways recap! That's more exciting!
1. The team's composure during the first half was very impressive.
Miami was hitting the long ball pretty well and as a result UB was, for a time, always 2-4 points down. After every Miami three I was ready for lone wolf basketball to return as somebody would run down the court and haul off an ugly three to "get even".
Instead the Bulls took their time set up plays and keep the RedHawks within striking distance waiting until Miami's "run the shot clock down to 5 and haul up a three" stopped working.
On paper this is a meh win against a pretty weak Miami team but the first half could have gotten ugly with Miami playing so well at home.
Player of the Game: Blake Hamilton
It's all about the Hamilton's Baby!
1. Ikenna Smart doing the little things
This is a little too granular for what usually goes into a takeaways post, but I was amazed to see Smart, just about every time he touched the ball, keep it high above his shoulders until he released it. Keeping the ball high between a rebound or collected pass and shooting it without dribbling it or bringing it down to one's waist makes a huge difference in low-post turnovers and blocked shots. Even if someone is covering Smart tightly, they have less leverage to rip the ball out if it's seven feet off the ground instead of five.
It's a little thing, but he does it every time and so many centers, especially at this level don't.
2. UB won this game on the glass, but...
Looking just at the box score, UB held a massive, massive rebounding advantage, pulled down 51% of offensive rebounding opportunities and 78% of opportunities at the other end. It's honestly hard to lose with those numbers. But I'm not so sure yet, while Buffalo is a strong rebounding team, that they're this good. I thought Miami did a pitiful job following their shot. There were at least ten times that three or four RedHawks were running down the floor before the ball was even out of their teammate's hands.
3. An eight-man rotation isn't the worst thing
This was a complete game to the final whistle, even as we saw the shortest bench of the year with Lamonte Bearden and Rodell Wigginton out. Only Nikola Rakicevic failed to get on the scoreboard, but he played 12 minutes of defense, too, and committed no fouls. Nick Perkins and David Kadiri quietly had very strong days. This was vintage 2014-15 Bulls. I would raise the same concerns as last year if this became the norm, but for two or three weeks until Bearden heals*, it's not a huge red flag to me.
Vice-Player of the Game: CJ Massinburg
I can't pick anyone but Hamilton for the top spot, but I do want to highlight that Massinburg's 13 points are his most in MAC play. and he's now scored 21 in the last two games. Other UB freshmen in the last four years have hit a wall around this point, and it would be nice if CJ's bouncing back.
1. Halftime adjustments worked
While watching the first half of the game it seemed like things just weren't clicking in the first half: shots weren't falling, Miami was able to hit three's at a good clip, and UB wasn't able to grab the lead for a 12 minute stretch before ending the half down 2 to the RedHawks. Then, just as the 2nd half started, UB was on the offensive early and shots started falling en route to a 47 point half led by 12 of Blake Hamilton's 22 points. Halftime adjustments are key to winning any basketball game and whatever Coach Oats said to his team at the half worked and they were able to overcome early woes. Learning to win games is the mark of a successful team.
2. No Bearden, no problem
In the second straight game without leading scorer Lamonte Bearden, UB once again posted a double digit win over a MAC foe. Now, correlation does not imply causation, but being without the offensive leader of the team and still being able to win over CMU at home and then win on the road (I don't care that it was Miami, winning on the road is hard) the coaching staff has done a wonderful job of putting everyone in a position to succeed.
2nd Vice-Player of the Game: Ikenna Smart
As Matt said above, Smart is doing the little things right on the court and as he's improved over the course of the season, those little things have added up and you could see it on the court last night. Smart finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds, 5 of which on the offensive glass. Smart is getting better body position, fouling less often and becoming an option in the low post for the offense. Not the sexy choice when Blake Hamilton exploded offensively, but it's a team game and the little things count, Smart is making those things count.
1. What is MAC backetball?
Probably not the best case study game to bring this up, but determining the pecking order inthe MAC so far this year is a damn near impossible task. Ball State recently beat Miami by 2 points late in the game, and they are having an above average season by their standards. CMU, predicted 1st, returned most all of their talent and is a middling team currently. I'm sure we'll get some clarity as the season progresses, but I'm liking the uncertainty of probabilities of winning so far.
2. Blake Hamilton
I remember watching Blake play in the Daemen exhibition game, and in my opinion, he was the most raw player on the court. I thought that Oats had a bust, and that Hamilton would rarely see the court this year. Well, he has proved to be a key cog in the UB offense so far, and fills out the stat sheet very nicely on a consistent basis. Oats and staff have done a quality job in finding overlooked talent in obscure places to keep this team competitive, one year after a lot of us felt this program was heading in the wrong direction.