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BUFFALO DOESN'T QUIT
Not a great week for UB hoops, but it does feel like something is happening below the surface.
Image from ubbulls.com
The University at Buffalo women’s basketball team lost on Saturday afternoon when Central Michigan’s Mikala Hall hit a 10-foot jumper with just under seven seconds left in the game to give the Chippewas a 72-71 lead. Despite two excellent looks at the bucket as the final moments ticked off the clock, the Bulls (9-12 overall, 4-8 in Mid-American Conference play, 233rd in NCAA NET) left Mount Pleasant disappointed.
It was UB’s third loss in a row, including a 93-71 misstep at third-place Toledo (19-4, 10-2, 73rd in NCAA NET, eighth in the CollegeInsider.com’s Women’s Mid-Major Top 25) on Wednesday, and seventh in the team’s last eight.
The Buffalo men’s team fell to Kent State on Friday night in a nationally-televised game for the second time this season, 72-65, despite getting 32 points off the bench and thoroughly outplaying the visiting Golden Flashes (20-5, 10-2, 60th in NCAA NET, eighth in the Mid-Major Top 25) in the entire first half and for significant stretches of the second.
The defeat marred would could’ve been a banner week for the Bulls (12-13, 6-6, 178th in NCAA NET), who dropped 90 points on an opponent for the third time in seven games in an extremely entertaining 102-97 home win over Emoni Bates and Eastern Michigan (6-18, 3-8, 314th in NCAA NET) on Tuesday.
Storybook Seasons for UB Basketball Teams? Probably Not.
Image from cmuchippewas.com
It took until February, but we’re finally coming to terms with what the UB men’s and women’s basketball teams really are this season—works in progress.
We can hold out some hope that the men, who are 4-4 in their last eight games, with the four losses coming against the top three teams in the MAC1, might piece together a miracle run through the conference tournament.
The cold, hard stats, however, show that Buffalo's not great defensively, turns the ball over way too much—the Bulls are among the worst in the nation in boneheaded plays, and that's the numbers talking, not me—don't attempt many threes and, when they do, don't shoot them particularly well. Those are the three factors that often fuel a Cinderella story, and UB doesn't really have any of those slippers.2
On the women’s side, the late December-early January stretch of seven wins in eight games has flipped entirely, and the Bulls simply lack the depth and the diversity on offense necessary to consistently win.
It’s a brutal slate this year in the MAC—Bowling Green, Ball State, and Toledo are sixth, seventh, and eighth in the Women’s Mid-Major Top 25, respectively, Kent State is 23rd, and Northern Illinois and Akron are both receiving votes. There aren’t many nights off.
Seeing the Good in Everyone
At this point, it is what it is with these teams. But we’re not going to complain today!3 Let's say this about both of these squads—they are, generally, a fun watch. The men's losses to Kent State and Toledo were three of the more nerve-wracking games I've enjoyed this season, with fascinating little through-threads and narratives playing out in each matchup. The wins over Western and Eastern Michigan were exhilarating displays of offensive basketball, made all the more climactic by Buffalo's aversion to defense.
There’s Jo Smith's persistent chatter and the way he hollers—audibly, literally, and comically—at bad calls.
There’s LaQuill Hardnett, and both his newfound touch from three and his constant pressure at the rim on the defensive side of the ball.
There’s Armani Foster’s slick passing and Isaiah Adams’ transformation from a wild basket-attacker into a valuable three-and-D swingman. There’s Zid Powell, already becoming a UB legend, walking the line every time he's on the court to deliver more no-no-YES and no-no-NO moments than any player I’ve seen in Blue and White in a while.
They’re a fun team. If they beat Miami and Central Michigan in mid-January—two truly abysmal MAC opponents that Buffalo just couldn’t put away—we’d be talking about an outside shot at the regular season title.4
Image from ubbulls.com
On the women’s side, Re’Shawna Stone (pictured above), Jazmine Young, and Zakiyah Winfield epitomize the combination of toughness and skill we, as Buffalonians (or Western New York ex-pats), want in our athletes.
Hattie Ogden is a 6’2 work in progress and, while not as much a presence around the rim as she could be, the freshman is 19-for-40 from three in six games since joining the starting lineup. When she tightens up her inside game, look out.
Emerita Mashaire is a lunchpail forward playing out of position, but shows up every game and grinds.
Latrice Perkins, battling through injuries and the transition from Division 2 to D1 hoops, has shown moments of brilliance.
The Bulls have shown zero quit under first-year head coach Becky Burke, whose persistence and optimism have kept UB competitive, even in their losses.
UB fell behind by 18 at halftime against Toledo. Did the team quit? No, they battled the Rockets to a 50-50 tie over the next 20 minutes.
Buffalo fell behind, 16-11, at the end of the first quarter against conference-leading Bowling Green. Did they quit? No, they outscored the Falcons, 50-48, over the next three quarters.
Western Michigan built a nine-point lead on the visiting Bulls in the first quarter. Did UB quit? No, they went into the fourth quarter down one, and only a disastrous shooting performance in the final frame kept UB from the upset.
Burke has Buffalo battling. Reinforcements are on the way in 2023-24, and it won’t be long until the Bulls—stripped to the studs after the 2021-22 season—are back.
We’ll dig back into the harder analysis in newsletters to come. But today, let’s celebrate what we have, and, hopefully, what’s to come for UB basketball.
Up Next: A Big Game for the UB Men in Ohio; Buffalo Women Host Kent State
Image from ubbulls.com
As the jostling for postseason positioning continues, the Buffalo men have a chance to put an elbow into rival Ohio (14-11, 6-6, 146th in NCAA NET) on Tuesday night. The two teams are tied for sixth in the MAC with matching .500 records—the Bulls did pick up a 75-72 win over the Bobcats at Alumni Arena earlier this season—and a UB win, coupled with a Northern Illinois loss at Ball State, could move Buffalo into a tie for fifth with the Huskies, whom the Bulls have also beaten this season.
It won’t be easy—while Ohio is 3-10 away from the Convocation Center this season, head coach Jeff Boals’ crew is 11-1 at home (and UB is 3-9 on the road). The Bobcats are coming off a nine-point win over Akron, a group that had won eight of its last nine and boasts both the country’s ninth-leading scorer (Xavier Castaneda, 21.7 points per game) and sixth-leading rebounder (Enrique Freeman, 11.1 boards per game).
Here’s the dirt on OU, courtesy of OhioBobcats.com:
Ohio is coming off a 90-81 win against Akron last Friday. Overall, Ohio shot 48.4 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three and were 20-of-23 from the line, while Akron shot 50.8 percent from the field, 47.8 percent from three and were 10-of-18 from the line. Ohio out-rebounded Akron, 33-32, while the Bobcats dished out 13 assists to Akron's 11. Ohio also forced 13 turnovers, grabbed seven steals and scored 17 points off the turnovers.
The Bobcats are 11-1 in the Convocation Center this season. In the NCAA, Ohio ranks 41st in total rebounds per game, 103rd in defensive rebounds per game and 43rd in offensive rebounds per game. Ohio also ranks 38th in three point percentage, 54th in three pointers made and 37th in scoring offense. The Bobcats also rank 48th in bench points per game.
Dwight Wilson III is 12th in the NCAA in field goal percentage, 13th in offensive rebounds per game and 21st in rebounds per game. He also ranks 35th in double doubles, is 35th in total rebounds, and leads the MAC in field goal percentage.
Jaylin Hunter ranks 97th in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio and is third in the MAC in assist/turnover ratio. He set a new career-high of 25 points against Akron on Feb. 10, and was named the MAC Co-Player of the Week on Feb. 13 for his performance the previous week.
As a team, Ohio is averaging 78.6 points and 37.8 rebounds a game, while opponents average 73.9 points and 34.6 rebounds a game. The Bobcats are also shooting .443 from the field, .362 from three and .729 from the line. Ohio also adds 13.1 assists, 6.2 steals and force 11.5 turnovers a game.
Opponents are shooting .443 from the field, .362 from three and .668 from the line, while dishing out 12.9 assists, 6.2 steals and 12.0 turnovers a game.
Individually, Wilson III leads Ohio with 15.9 points a game, while shooting .629 from the field, while also averaging 9.6 rebounds a game. Hunter adds 12.4 points and 4.2 assists a game, while Miles Brown adds 10.8 points a game.
Game time is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Oxford (ESPN+).
Image from ubbulls.com
The UB women will stay home to play Kent State (15-8, 7-5, 123rd in NCAA NET) on Wednesday evening. The Golden Flashes are fourth in the MAC, which is, at the moment, chalk, considering that’s where they were picked in the conference preseason poll.
Still, this has to feel like something of a disappointment for high-strung head coach Todd Starkey’s squad, a group laden with experienced upperclassmen that’s gone 0-4 against the three real contenders in the conference: Toledo, Ball State, and Bowling Green (twice). Throw in an overtime loss to 10th-place Miami and you’ve got a real letdown on your hands.
I will say this—Buffalo could lose the rest of its games this season by double digits and I’d be fine with it if they beat Kent State. That’s how much I’ve come to dislike the style Starkey brings to the court. Get two beers into me and I’ll tell you more.
Here’s the intel on the Flashes, via KentStateSports.com:
Kent State shot just 3-for-11 in the fourth quarter and fell to co-Mid-American Conference leader Bowling Green, 75-69, in the annual Play4Kay game on Saturday at the M.A.C. Center.
The Golden Flashes (15-8, 7-5 MAC) scored at least 18 points in each of the first three periods and trailed by just three entering the fourth before being outscored 14-11 over the final 10 minutes.
Graduate student Lindsey Thall led Kent State on both ends of the floor with 15 points, two steals and two blocks. Freshman Corynne Hauser added 13 points while recording career-highs of seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Flashes closed the first quarter with a 10-3 run over the final 2:46 to go ahead 21-20.
Bowling Green shot 9-of-15 overall, including 4-of-7 from behind the three-point arc, in the second quarter to take a 45-39 lead at the halftime break.
The Falcons scored the first basket in the third period to take their largest lead of the day, but Kent State chipped away and got within 61-58 on a three-pointer by Thall in the final minute of the quarter.
The Flashes had two opportunities to tie the game or take the lead midway through the fourth but came away with consecutive empty possessions. A three-pointer by Santoro cut the deficit to three with 32.3 seconds remaining, but Kent State was unable to force a turnover and sent the Falcons to the free throw line.
Tipoff is Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Alumni Arena (ESPN+).
Toledo, Kent State twice, and Akron. Three of those games were, if not close, very competitive, while the loss to the Zips really wasn’t
A little sourcing for these numbers: these “cold, hard stats” come from Kenpom.com, which show that Buffalo is 215th in defensive efficiency; 234th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage; 245th in opponents two-point field-goal percentage; 331st in non-steal turnovers with 11 per game, which is absolutely egregious; and 294th in three-point field goals attempted and 247th in three-point field goal percentage. On this last point, I will concede that LaQuill Hardnett (eight-for-14 from three in his last seven games, or 57 percent) and Isaiah Adams 18-for-38 over his last eight games, or 47 percent) are single-handedly keeping the Bulls relevant from distance. Curtis Jones is a respectable 20-for-60 from three in his last eight games, but he’s also had an 0-7 performance at Kent State which played a major role in UB’s six-point loss, and a one-for-seven line in the win over Eastern Michigan. Zid Powell, ostensibly the team’s other threat from distance, is five-for-28 over his last eight games (18 percent), including four oh-fers.
Miami is 1-8 since taking out the Bulls on Jan. 10. Central Michigan is 2-6 since beating Buffalo in overtime on Jan. 14. What could have been! The other key stat to consider is that UB is 4-11 against Akron, Kent State, and Toledo over the past three seasons, and 1-9 over the past two. Tough to be considered a big boy with that kind of record against the cream of the conference crop.