It's a loss, on the road, to a good team. By now we know what UB looks like when they don't play poorly, and for me at least - Robby may have more to say - there's little need to rehash most of it.
1. Rob Murphy's defense is perfectly designed for a matchup against UB
I was and am surprised that the game was so close for so long despite UB's beginning-to-end struggles. The fact of the matter is that EMU head coach Rob Murphy, while never bringing his program to the top of the MAC, has been around long enough to really establish a foundation in that program. A foundation built on a gritty zone defense thanks to a standout true center holding down the lane all by himself.
Any of us know that the way to beat a zone is to shoot over it from outside, but for UB this season the outside shots have come only after the Bulls have established their ability to get the ball to the rim. EMU doesn't need to bring defenders off the perimeter to help in the lane, and they don't leave the wide open shots that Buffalo uses to get some quick momentum.
The rest of the story is obvious, but keep in mind that this is an ideal matchup for EMU and worst-case for UB, much like years of Bowling Green's zone against Reggie Witherspoon's perimeter offense. In those days, UB found success when they could pass it into the lane, but rarely had or were willing to take that option. In this one, the Bulls are of course too willing to go into the lane and found themselves against a more disciplined defense than usual.
2. Winning on the road in the MAC is hard
I know there's a tendency to dismiss EMU, but they are a good team. Not an impressive resume yet thanks to a bunch of home patsies, but KenPom has had them second in the MAC for a bit now. Raven Lee is the type of player who can win games all by himself, and they've got plenty of options down low. Losses stink, and UB is not far from 3-0 in conference right now, but if you really expected three wins from these three games a month ago, you're a more optimistic fan than I.
UB spends most of January on the road before a friendly closing schedule. Even the most generous assessment of their standing within the MAC wouldn't put them heads and shoulders over the cluster from 3 to 9 in the conference. There's a good chance that most of their games present clear opportunities to win, like the last three have, and how much they take advantage of those opportunities - or don't - shouldn't be much of a surprise in a more-clustered-than-normal MAC.
1. Inconsistency is a big worry for this team
We've seen this team in absolute dumpster fire mode and we've seen this team at a level that can contend for the MAC. If there's anyway UB is going to pull off at least a 10 win conference season, there needs to be consistency. That awesome road win at Kent State is going to be useless when the Bulls head over to Eastern Michigan and play like a completely difference team.
Last season, we saw the same problems with Hurley's uptempo offense up until the team was 6-6 in the MAC last year. There's the argument that EMU's 2-3 zone was perfect against us but I think a lot of our woes are away from that. I honestly think we are beating ourselves here. Hopefully Oats and the crew can find some answers here and bring a consistent product.
2. When Lamonte isn't playing at his best, the team struggles
I hate to say this, but it's crucial that Lamonte Bearden comes up big from now on. I've been noticing it more every game. Bearden is the glue that holds this offense together with Hamilton right next to him in that regard. I knew at the beginning of this season that he would be crucial in this team's success, but it's a lot more than I though.
Here's some food for thought for when I say this:
- In our wins: only twice was Lamonte's shooting percentage below 40%
- In our losses: only twice was Lamonte's shooting percentage above 40%
- We have yet to win a game when Bearden doesn't have at least 4 assists