UB marched into Philly yesterday for their second away game of the 2015-16 season. Just like their trip to Old Dominion, it wasn't pretty by any means. UB let St. Joe's lead stretch out into double digits in practically no time as their defensive presence was non-existent. There's still plenty of work to do for this team if they want to compete for a Mid-American Conference Championship.
1. Nothing but forced shots
Just like the game against ODU, the Bulls didn't take anytime to setup shots that were worthy of consideration. Instead, it was usually the #LoneWolfBasketball mentality of "I have the ball, which means I'm going to drive it to the rim or throw a contested three". I know Nate Oats wants this team to play without a lot of restraint but this can't happen or our only win will be against Pitt-Bradford.
2. Bearden's regression is for real
I gave him a few games to shake off the cobwebs but it is completely visible now. Lamonte Bearden isn't the same player that we saw last year. I have confidence that he can get it back but this is so disappointing to watch. He takes so many crazy shots that he used to be able to finish on but not anymore. Bearden was expected to run this offense but instead, he just sends it into more chaos. He finished the night without a single assist.
3. The defense looks lost
This is probably the most concerning. Allowing 89 points in a game where scoring has slowed is bad news. It seemed like there wasn't any life in this defense whatsoever. Nikola Rakicevic had some good post defense in the 10 minutes that he played but that was about it. What I harp on the most here was in the first half when Bearden was just standing in the middle of the paint doing absolutely nothing while one of the players for St. Joe's came in from the side and made an easy layup. It was just really ugly to watch in general.
4. Rakicevic deserves more minutes
Rakicevic has some of the best defense on the floor. His shot selection is usually very smart and he doesn't get into trouble with fouls. The problem here is that Nikola is getting half of the minutes that most of the team is getting. Most guys had 20 minutes or more compared to Nikola's 10. It's a little frustrating to see when players like Skeete are throwing up brick after brick.
5. No post presence
We have no leader in the post and it is completely visible. Ikenna Smart just isn't cutting it right now even though he had a much better day in this one shooting wise. I can't believe I'm saying this but we need Raheem Johnson back as soon as possible. Rebounding has been brutal because of this problem and scoring in the paint is such a struggle. If something needs to get better ASAP, it is this.
Player of the Game- Blake Hamilton
Hamilton was the only player that seemed to be playing as well as they should be. He had 5-11 shooting and he put up 14 points on the board. He also led the team with 7 rebounds. He was one of the few players that I trusted when they had the ball in this one.
The Bottom Line
There is still a ton to improve on here. What's alarming is that the improvements that need to be made are on big picture type of things like the defense in general and the offense not setting up good shots by working together. There isn't any reason to panic because there was a diamond in the rough here. Early in the second half, UB trimmed a 21 point deficit into a 12 point one over 2 minutes. It was amazing defense coupled with great offensive presence. If Nate Oats can get his team to play like that consistently, this team can win a lot of games.