UB lost again to another ranked team, but put together a strong defensive showing in the first half combined with a fiery stretch early in the second to keep themselves in the game against #2 Iowa State until the final ten minutes. Our takeaways:
1. It's nice to have Raheem Johnson back
In any capacity, it would be good to have five more fouls and a second 6-10 body to put down low, but Johnson was better than his 2014-15 form in his first action of the year, and better in his first game back from a foot injury that was initially expected to keep him out for 6-8 weeks. Nobody will get too excited over 4 points, but the senior was not overly trigger-happy shooting the ball, and pulled down 7 rebounds in just 16 minutes.
Last season, Johnson only scored more than 4 points eight times, while he only once had 7 rebounds. For him to come in off an injury against a very strong Iowa State team and match his usual 2014 output along with improved defense is promising to me.
2. The small forward situation
A nice benefit of almost always having one of Johnson or Ikenna Smart on the floor is that Nick Perkins can move a out to a bit of a stretch-four position. I'm not wild about him taking seven shots from distance the last two games, but he's better in offense when he can move around more.
Alternatively, let's keep an eye out for Rodell Wigginton news, after the senior played less than ten minutes last night. Wigginton is a strong perimeter defender with the size to rebound on the offensive glass. As both teams dominated their own defensive glass last night, I wondered what two or three offensive rebounds from Rodell could have done.
3. Not enough assists
As a team, UB has only totaled 22 assists over the last three games, and at least against Iowa State, they weren't forced into passing-unfriendly situations. As the defense strengthened late in the first half, the offense returned to shooting three-pointers early in the shot clock and squandered a chance to get a little closer before half. The offense has movement in it, but it's not translating to ball movement.
Player of the Game: Jarryn Skeete
So he missed three shots in six minutes to start the game. I'm much more impressed by what happened in the rest of the first half. As Skeete sat, Iowa State went on a 15-0 run. When he returned, the Cyclones did not score for over six minutes while he held off from shooting, working the ball to others and not taking a shot for ten minutes of floor time. The high-leverage first ten minutes of the second half show why the coaching staff is willing to let him shoot through streaks, and I have no problem with the later missed shots once Iowa State reestablished a ten-point lead.
1. Coach Oats, CALL A TIMEOUT
This is three games in a row where I felt like a timeout was desperately needed at points. There are these long stretches where the team gets rowdy in transition and are too quick to chuck up a three or some other horrifying shot. This was most visible in this game particularly in the last three minutes or so when Iowa State couldn't get any shots to fall. We could've easily lead at half time if the guys took their time and found some better shots. A timeout in situations like this is a great way to settle the guys down.
2. We looked like a MAC favorite at points
For the first time this season, it looked like this team could win a MAC Championship. Unfortunately, college basketball is a game of 40 minutes and this team needs to put it all together for that long. Playing a team that I believe will be National Champions this year this hard is a great thing. I started getting the same feelings that I got after watching us go toe to toe with #1 Kentucky last year. I refuse to count this team out just yet.
3. We have to limit our expectations for CJ
I think deep down, a lot of us have forgotten that Massinburg is a freshman. It just so happens that he's a freshman that came out of nowhere and is playing to the ability of an All-MAC candidate at points. It definitely seems like CJ is going to be inconsistent this year. He's going to have those nights of almost 20 points and then the nights where he has five. That's ok with me. We just have to hope that other guys will step up when he's not on fire.
Player of the Game: Skeete Skeete Skeete
Only reason we stayed in the game hands down. His perimeter defense isn't something to take for granted and when he's on fire, he plays like one of the best shooting guards in the country. Also, he only took three shots in the first half, I don't think that's something to whine about just because he missed them.