Yesterday's Women's Hoops opener against LIU-Brooklyn was the toughest matchup and first D-I opponent we've seen for either basketball team yet this season, but Buffalo handled the Blackbirds without too much trouble, avenging an ugly loss from last season. Joanna Smith led UB with 15 points, but individually few stats shone through a game that saw all available players, save Tamara Brcina, hit the floor for UB.
1. Three point shooting.
Same old, same old. There's been plenty of talk and not a lot of walk over the last year or so on UB's three point shooting. Yesterday 25 of Buffalo's 57 attempts were from distance, with Joanna Smith taking thirteen. Considering she hit two of her first three, 3-13 looks especially bad. It's especially frustrating given that UB shot 16-32 from inside the arc, and was closer to 60% for much of the game. Not only are too many shots coming from too far away, but they're often coming awful early in the shot clock. It's a young team, and learning to pass up a decent look to find a better one would go a long way.
2. The Sisters Ups and Mariah Suchan.
I thought all three looked much stronger than last year. Obviously the two Aussies have played their way into the starting lineup, but they minimized mistakes. UB's momentum slowed down in the second quarter when they played less, and Katherine in particular looks to have a good feel for her role as a stretch four. Suchan looks like someone benefiting from a year of practicing against Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas, rejuvenating UB late in the first half today with eight quick points. She didn't score in the second half, but played well in a reserve role.
Player of the Game: Stephanie Reid
The lone Bull to play over 30 minutes, Reid put in a relatively normal day for her, scoring 6, assisting on 6, and stealing 5 while committing no fouls and just a single turnover.
1. Defense, defense, defense.
Replacing 72% of last year's scoring means that the UB offense will take some time to figure itself out while all the new faces get used to being on the court with one another. That said, the UB defense will be heavily relied upon the patented FLJ defense as the young team figures itself out. UB stifled LIU from the start and didn't give up their first field goal until the first quarter was already halfway over; they also held LIU scoreless for the last 5:46 of the 4th quarter. Until the offense gets in a rhythm these type of grind-it-out wins will likely be the norm for UB.
2. The Sisters Ups.
I found it curious that Katherine was on the court for nearly 15 minutes longer than her sister Liisa, especially after Lissa was touted as stepping up as one of the leaders on the team. As Matt said above, Katherine looked comfortable in role as the stretch four, finishing with 8 points; while, Liisa finished the game without even attempting a single field goal. Liisa playing only 13 minutes may be a function of the wealth of guard depth that UB has but it's worth keeping an eye on.
Player of the Game: Mariah Suchan
Suchan was a bit of a spark plug off the UB bench, finishing with 8 points to lead the UB bench. Suchan scored 6 of her points within the final 2 minutes of the first half to give UB momentum heading into the second half. She fought hard down low in the paint and looks very promising considering the depleted forward depth until Cassie Oursler makes her debut.
1. They're called free for a reason
Okay, so that's very cliche at this point, but c'mon. UB was 5 of 13 from the free throw line, a dismal 38.5%. Granted, only 4 players attempted a shot, but this is something that needs addressing. Those are points being left straight on the table, and there will be games against tougher opponent where those are necessary.
2. Quick hands
UB forced 31 LIU turnovers in the game which shows the team's buy-in on defense. They only committed one more foul than the Blackbirds also, showing their smart decision making when trying to force turnovers and stepping in passing lanes. The only concern I have is they only scored 23 points off of 31 turnovers, which isn't generating optimally from their opportunities. LIU, in comparison, scored 19 points on 11 fewer turnovers.
3. Securing the perimeter
Nothing too deep here. LIU was 0-14 from beyond the arc. Thats good. Let's keep that up.
Player of the Game: Gabi Bade
Proportionally, she was the best player yesterday. Playing only 19 minutes, she filled out the stat sheet nicely. Gabi adds another player capable of running the offense, even when Stephanie Reid plays nearly the entire game. She had nice vision and made some crafty plays that earned her my pick as player of the game.