Buffalo is now halfway through their foreign summer tour and they're currently undefeated. The Bulls started the trip off with an 84-73 win over the University of Guelph and yesterday they took down the York University Lions 87-69. While in attendance, there were a lot of positives that I took from the team's current play. Unfortunately, no box score was kept but I raked up some of the stats that were kept from UB's student-manager Jake Sweeney.
First let's give you the starting lineup:
Bulls are going to shake up the starting five for today's game vs. York: Kadiri, Pino, Perkins, Smart, Rakicevic— UB Athletics (@UBAthletics) August 21, 2016
Yes folks, that's right. THE Christian Pino started at point guard for this game.
Anyway, let's get a little serious now. I'll admit, these guys played awful in the first quarter. It was almost as ugly as last year's out of conference season. I don't think this is because of who Buffalo started, but the same problems from the exhibition with Guelph cropped up. Three point defense and shot selection weren't up to snuff in the early going and Head Coach Nate Oats quickly had to make changes.
"The Big Apple"
Brock Bertram — a three-star center from Apple Valley, Minnesota — played his first ever minutes for UB in this game. Dubbed right here at Bull Run as the "The Big Apple", Bertram quickly made himself known by converting a three point play, putting the Bulls up 12-7. Although he didn't have the best game and probably needs more conditioning, it's easy to tell that Brock is going to be a lot like Toledo's Nathan Boothe minus the three point shooting. (Which isn't a bad comparison at all).
The offense shakes off the cobwebs
Buffalo really got the ball rolling after the first quarter when the walk-ons took a seat for a bit. What ensued next was a Willie Conner smackdown on York. With a promising senior season ahead, Conner had his only 14 points scored by half-time. His shooting was slightly above average but his finishing ability has improved since last season. From this point on, Buffalo had no problem keeping York from a distance.
UB's freshman class is an exciting bunch to watch. I've already noted Bertram, but Quate McKinzie and James Jones show a bright future for the Bulls. McKinzie shows one of the strongest finishing abilities on the team and his quickness of slipping through unnoticed in the post was quite the sight to see. Also, his dunks are flashy and they'll be entertaining to see. He finished the day with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. If he bulks up in the coming years, the Mid-American conference should watch out.
James Jones deserves just as much praise. He came to Buffalo as what many called an underrated guard from the Chicago area. This particular freshman is going to be one of UB's better shooters from around the arc. As a freshman, he already makes smart decisions and gives it his all. I remember two occasions that easily could've been turnovers, but Jones kept the ball in the Bulls' possession the entire time. With 15 points on the night, the future is looking good.
Willie Conner had a strong game but he wasn't the only one succeeding. Blake Hamilton showed that the game versus Guelph was an outlier and tossed up 15 points. Nick Perkins bulked up over the summer and it paid dividends. The sophomore scored ten points and his offensive post work is much improved, making him a strong matchup problem all over the court.
Ikenna Smart did a great job of not picking up dumb fouls like last year. This could be because international play is a little more aggressive but either way it's an improvement. Finally, Nikola Rakicevic had a very strong game. His conditioning is getting there and although he looks a little lost on the court sometimes, Rakicevic could bring in solid bench minutes this year. CJ "Buckets" Massinburg had another tough game and couldn't get too many shots to fall.
Dontay Caruthers is one of the stronger point guard candidates
As the only JUCO player in this year's class, many didn't know what to make of the the Rochester native. His high school tape wasn't anything phenomenal but Bryan Hodgson saw something that made sense to give him a scholarship at UB. Caruthers has significantly improved since high school and handled point guard duties extremely well. He only scored seven points, but a different stat line is more impressive. Caruthers finished the day with 7 assists and only 2 turnovers.
Players not included and why:
Davonta Jordan: The three-star from Florida is a late addition and got to UB after summer classes were over. As a result he didn't make the trip
David Kadiri: Bad news, Kadiri's knee is still giving him a hard time. He had ice on it for the whole game.
Raheem Johnson: Johnson is once again having undisclosed disciplinary issues and did not dress for the game.
Bonus: My Travels with True Blue
None of the following has anything really to do with the game but I felt like sharing.
- Upon arrival, Athletic Director Allen Greene went out of his way to welcome us as usual and took a picture with us.
- York had a player that looked very similar to Christian Pino. True Blue proceeded to chant "Knockoff Pino" while the real Pino was dying of laughter on the bench.
- Oh... and for CTBullsFan:
I'm just posting this Pino footage to embed on Bull Run. Nothing to see here. pic.twitter.com/88HuuMjqqX— Robby Johnson (@RJohnson48) August 22, 2016
- True Blue's Zach Eaton dubbed James Jones as "JJ Buckets" and along with CJ they are now the "Bucket Brothers"
Update, there was an alley-oop— Bull Run (@UBBullRun) August 21, 2016
- On the way home from Canada, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up Drew Willy Honeycombs. While going back to the on-ramp to get on the highway, it had been blocked off by a cop car. Turns out Drew Willy saved us from a traffic jam