The Buffalo Bulls got out to an early 10-1 lead on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday night, but that was as good as it would get for the Bulls before things went south. Vanderbilt would go on an 8-0 run of their own to bring tighten the game, and the two teams then traded leads throughout the first half. With just over 5 minutes remaining in the first half Vandy went on a 23-4 run that would put UB down 15 and sink their win probability from 58.2% to 8.9%.
After a first half laden with referee whistles, there was hope that the Bulls would be able to climb back into the game in the second half if they were able to get running in their free flowing offense, however that never happened with the Vanderbilt lead growing to as large as 22 in the second half. A few buckets in garbage time made the final deficit of 14 look closer than the game felt for most of the final 25 minutes.
After an encouraging first four minutes for the Bulls, the wheels fell off, and the team struggled to execute and make shots throughout the majority of the game. The Bulls were beat playing their own fast paced game in this one, with Vanderbilt turning the ball over four less times and scoring 12 more points in transition. The Bulls have been pretty good taking care of the ball as a whole this season, especially given the pace that they play at, but the pace is something to keep an eye on this season. UB has been known for the pace that they play with, but they’ve actually cranked the pace up over 4% more from last year’s team that played at the 11th fastest pace in the country.
The true shooting ability of this team is still a question. Ronaldo Segu started the season hot, but has been on a cold streak since the Harvard game. Antwain Johnson and Gabe Grant have struggled this year after having been good shooters at their previous stops. I still believe in these guys to figure it out, going from ancillary piece to go-to scorer is a big adjustment and it shows at times in the shot selection.
Interior defense is still lacking. The Bulls allowed Vandy to shoot 54.9% from two. The return of Brock Betram for conference play (hopefully) should help (hopefully) shore things up inside. As the biggest player on the team he’ll be able to body strong post players, and help on the defensive boards which has been an issue. By eating some of LaQuill Hardnett and Josh Mballa’s minutes it should also reduce the amount of time they spend in foul trouble, freeing them up to play more aggressively. I think Hardnett and Mballa both most naturally fit as 4s defensively, and Bertram’s addition back to the lineup will allow them to go with two bigs for really the first time all season, although we did see a brief stretch of Mballa and Hardnett on the floor together last night.