BG's 3 game winning streak came to an end at the Stroh Saturday, and it was a game that clearly showed who the better team was, with UB winning 88-74.
BG came out playing like the team we hoped we were evolving into. BG led the entire first half and by as much as 8 at one point. The Falcons were up 3 at the break.
In the second half, UB just showed that they are a much tougher and more resilient team. Much like when we play Akron, we were playing against a team that just knows how to win games and how to take their play up a notch. Punched in the mouth, BG had no response this time. BG had played two long, high-energy games before this, but this is what conference play requires and the Bulls had it and the Falcons didn't. As Coach said after the game, we need to get more mentally tough.
Buffalo tied the game 2 minutes into the 2nd half and then had a lead a minute later. With about 15 minutes left, UB had a 1-point lead. Then they went on a 16-2 run over the next 5 minutes to essentially win the game. They pounded the ball inside relentlessly and effectively while BG was unable to get inside on its end, turning the ball over and missing outside shots. Coach Huger tried some different combinations, but none of them were able to get things resolved.
BG never got the lead inside 10. With about 5 minutes left they got it to 11, but the Bulls turned it back on again, scoring the next 6 points.
So, here's the story of the game and it is pretty clear. BG is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC and that was clear here. BG is also the easiest team to shoot 2FGs against. The Falcons had 1-point per possession, which is below the league average. The Falcons did shoot above average, with 42% on 2FGs and a strong 48% on 3FGs. However, Buffalo shot an incredible 74% on their 2FGs and 36% on their 3FGs. The 74% is the highest allowed under Coach Huger. The Bulls ended up with 1.19 points per possession.
This is the 7th time this year BG has allowed 60% EFG or more in a MAC game. The best shooting team in the country only averages 61.5%. BG has been consistently allowing that kind of shooting over recent games and winning because they have been shooting well. I don't think we are likely to stay successful, however, on that model.
BG was helped by turnovers. Buffalo shot well the whole game but had turnovers early and then eliminated them when they made their run. They had a good day on the offensive boards--BG seemed to just drop several defensive rebounds--and then the FT was a disaster. BG's 2 defense is poor which leads to baskets and fouls. UB was 17 of 26 at the line, which is only 65%, but BG was 7 of 13, which is 54%.
Individually, Dylan Frye had a big game for the Falcons. He scored 20 points in 25 minutes, on 8 of 14 and 4 of 7 shooting and added 7 rebounds. Zack Denny had 12 points on 5 of 11 and 2 of 2 shooting. BG's PGs both had 8 points, but Caldwell only shot 3 of 9 and Ali had 3 assists and 3 steals to go with 4 turnovers. Wiggins had 8 rebounds but saw his FTs continue to regress (3-7). Alcegiare and Lillard continued to struggle to make shots.
I like Buffalo. Akron is clearly the favorite to win the MAC, but I would not count Buffalo out in the tournament. They are tough and they have strong players at numerous positions. I'm not sure they have enough to handle Johnson on the inside, but we shall see. Beyond that, they asserted themselves in the 2nd half against BG and the Falcons didn't have a response.
I would circle the AK @ UB game on your calendar. Right now, with Campbell out, I think those are the two best teams in the MAC.
Here's how things look it we started the tournament now. BG woiuld be on the road, but has the same record as the last team with a home spot, which is EMU. BG has a tougher road, because with 6 games left they have 4 away games and EMU has 3, WMU has 2 and KSU had 3. Also, BG loses the tiebreaker to EMU. Which means that the game Tuesday is important or even critical for BG's chances to getting that home game, which are slim anyway. WMU is not a great team and if BG is going to rally with a strong road performance, this would be the time to do it.