11 straight over the Huskies, and now UB gets to come home for a week.
1. Freshmen come up big in this one
It was great to see CJ and Nick Perkins get back into the swing of things in this game. Often times they were the players that helped the UB offense get out of droughts as well. When it comes to that, I especially praise Nick Perkins for the good work. In the first half, Nick grabbed six very quick points to really ignite the offense. He did the same thing in the second half. Big day overall for the freshmen that make the already positive future look even better.
2. In my opinion, we won that game by more than the score indicated.
61 fouls in a game is quite ridiculous. A good chunk of NIU's points were from the free throw line because of this. Cut the fouls in half and I think we blow NIU by way more than that. Also while I'm talking about it, this is horrendous officiating. I understand the rules this year don't allow as much physicality in play but never is sixty fouls justified. I fault the refs on that one. Shoutout to the MAC for hiring refs that want to make the game as long as a football game.
3. If we play like we did tonight, our chances of repeating is high
I'm not putting a MAC championship out of the question anymore after seeing this team play near it's full potential. If we play like that, no team in the MAC can stop us. Our odds are getting better as well because we're finally starting to show consistency. If we can win the bulk of our home games and steal one of the road games that's left in our schedule, I could see 11 to 12 wins. We would be a top four seed no question in that case. At that point, all bets are off when the MAC tourney comes around.
Player of the Game: Lamonte Bearden
That stat line is crazy, enough said.
Honorable Mention: Nick Perkins
He opened the floodgates for everyone else and played extremely well. Not too shabby for a freshman.
1. Winning on the road in the MAC is hard, UB has done it as well as anyone so far, and it's positioned them to be serious contenders
Consider two points, with UB 6-3 in the MAC and 4-2 on the road: (1) No MAC school has more home games in the second half of the conference season than UB (6) and (2) No MAC school has more road wins at this point in the season than UB (4). It's actually stunning, considering the Bulls didn't get a road win this season until MAC play.
Already sitting #2 in the conference before the home-heavy back nine, UB's in prime position with another opportunity against #1 Akron, a 2-0 record against #3 and #4 Kent State and Central Michigan, and a home game remaining against the Flashes.
Last night's win was frustrating as all hell, but also never in doubt in the final fifteen minutes. And yet, NIU hadn't lost at home in 13 games prior. Bulls fans shouldn't look to the margin of victory and think this was anything but the latest in a series of statements to the MAC that affirm: "We're not going anywhere. See you in Cleveland. We'll be rested."
2. Success with limited Hamilton
8 points and 7 rebounds for Blake Hamilton may be to me one of his most impressive lines yet, because he did it in just 17 minutes. Of course, he committed the fouls that limited him, as well, but he's a guy that makes things happen.
That's why I'm even more impressed by UB's play without Hamilton. While he played only six minutes in the second half, Nick Perkins, Willie Conner, and CJ Massinburg - who depending on the situation could all be seen as analogues for the versatile junior - all played more than fifteen minutes, all scored eight or more points, and all pulled down five or more rebounds.
3. Jarryn Skeete played only six minutes in the second half
Concerning. Though I could believe it was a hot hand situation with Massinburg and Conner, or that it was an adjustment to NIU's rebounding advantage in the first, I think it important that your senior leader be on the floor. He's only averaging 8 points per game in MAC play, and seems to have been passed by more versatile options at both backup PG and SG.
Honorable Mention Player of the Game: CJ Massinburg
Does CJ's freshman year remind anyone else of Shannon Evans'? A bit of a slump in the first parts of conference play, but now CJ Buckets is back.
If not for Lamonte adding 7 boards and 7 assists to a career-high 23, UB fans would be going nuts over Massinburg's performance: 16 points (including 11-12 from the line) without many wild, ill-advised shots, five assists, seven rebounds, and a block, the latter two stats tying for the team lead.
That is not a line you ever, ever, expect to see from a freshman in this conference.