Though UB officially opened the season with a huge win over Pitt-Bradford, the first 'real' game against a Division I opponent went poorly in a 19 point loss to Old Dominion. The Monarchs are a strong C-USA team and suffered less turmoil from a good 2014-15 season than the Bulls, and it's clear today that Nate Oats' team still has work to do in gelling and building chemistry with each other.
1. WHY WON'T YOU PASS THE BALL?
This is ultimately what lost us this game. The Pitt-Bradford game saw a lot of passing around and setting up shots and it was utterly non-existent for this entire game. The team ended up with only 6 assists on the entire night (with just two of those coming in the first half). I have a feeling that this might be a continuing problem for this team and as a result I'm going to coin it #LoneWolfBasketball. Anyway, this is the biggest problem the team faces because one player driving up to the rim with full force isn't working.
2. Don't do this to me Skeete
Throughout the GameThread people questioned why I wanted Skeete out. Well, he may have lead the Bulls in points but that's because he chucked up way to many shots. Skeete was 4-14 and it was brutal to watch a 2014-15 replay of him hurling bricks. At this point, I'd rather Hamilton start because he had another good day. For this team to succeed, Skeete has to calm down and take smarter shots. He's trying to be Steph Curry and it isn't working.
3. No Post Presence
This was the scariest thing to watch. Rarely we were able to finish in the post as easy put back chances were foiled. Ikenna Smart's shooting game continues to show that he's mainly going to be a defensive player (ugh...). There's so much work to do here and I thought it was going to be one of our strengths.
Player of the Game: Rodell Wigginton
Rodell is playing the smartest basketball since he first suited up for the Bulls. The amount of questionable shots from him are getting lower and lower as his career grows. He had one of the lowest minute totals but still reached the second highest scoring mark by the Bulls for this game. His defense was eccentric after recording 3 steals, 2 blocks, and some rebounds. Wigginton should be getting 30 min. per game for the rest of the season.
1. Not the end of the world
Old Dominion is a team that had separate ten- and six-game winning streaks last year and advanced to the NIT Semifinal. They're a good team, and a loss to them is less troubling than one to St. Bonaventure last year. I've gotten in trouble for calling out the gamethreads before, but the mindset that you can form full opinions about Oats and this entire season from yesterday is not one I share.
I did not spring for the video feed last night, so I only have box scores to go on, but Buffalo had a strong day on the glass. Against a hot shooting team, the rebounders did enough to get 20 more shots from the floor. The Bulls didn't capitalize on that, but that's a recipe for overcoming poor shooting. UB won 73% of the rebounds on the defensive glass, and 40% on the offensive boards, doubling the Monarchs up in second-chance points. 20 offensive rebounds are the most since the Alumni Arena win over Akron last season and has happened just five times since the beginning of 2009.
Player of the Game: CJ Massinburg
He didn't hit from the floor, but if more players brought what Massinburg did in this one the margin would be closer. In 23 minutes he got to the line a half-dozen times and went 5-6 while the rest of his team went just 10-17. He added a little bit of everything in the secondary stats without turning the ball over.
1. Ikenna has a way to go
Robby already touched on this, but I was less than pleased with the play of Ikenna Smart. I'll cut him some slack because he has only been playing basketball for four years now, but his offensive game is not where it needs to be. There were multiple points in the game where he missed simple putbacks after a botched first shot. Mind you he was the tallest one on the court by a good margin. Obviously he needs to develop more, and I will be interested to see the minute distribution once Raheem Johnson is healthy again.
2. Wait, Niagara only lost by 17
Does that mean we're at the same level as Niagara?
Comparing ODU's first two opponents, they held NU to 33% from the field, 12% from behind the arc, and 67% free throw shooting. UB shot 31% from the field, 19% from 3, and 65% free throw shooting. Looking at that, Old Dominion was able to enforce their will on the defensive sides for both teams. The only difference is that ODU had a much better shooting night against UB, seeing significant increases in all categories. You could blame this on the defense, but I'm going to chalk it up that the Monarchs were hot on Monday.
Player of the Game: I have learned that I have such a hard time picking a player of the game when no one truly deserves it. So instead I'll pick anti-player of the game. This one goes to Lamonte Bearden, who fouled out with only 14 minutes played, with his last foul being a technical. Points aside, I expect more from him being a leader on this team. It showed me a lack of maturity and poise and something that we need reversed as the season goes on. This team has some chemistry issues, but I'm confident it can be addressed before MAC play starts.