Sunday, March 17, 2019

Proud of Our Boys

So here we are.  It didn't work out.  More on that in a minute.

We may have lost, but we are not beaten.  Those guys had such a year and I was so proud of their performance all year and in this game.  I was proud to clap them off the floor.  Winning would have been great...incredible...and not because we don't respect Buffalo but because we do.  It didn't happen, but we got closer than we have in 17 years and I think we are building a true program and these guys--the guys we have right now--did something pretty cool and I hope they enjoy it for their lives.

Nothing but love here.  What a great year.

BG gave Buffalo all they could handle.  Buffalo made a couple runs and BG always brought it back.  This Bulls team is so good.  The last team in the MAC that was better beat us in the MAC Final that year, too.  Massinburg is two-time POY.  Jeremy Harris?  Are you kidding me?  And Nick Perkins is your third best player.  The Bulls are a machine.  When you turn the ball over, your first thought is they are going to come down and hit a 3 and in the blink of an eye you're down 3 more.

More on the Bulls.  They've won 4 out of the last 5 titles.  That never used to happen.  How good was Akron every year--and yet, it's hard to win that tournament consistently.  Buffalo is on the verge--if they keep it together--of becoming the Gonzaga of the East.  Great program, mid-major conference, win big games in the non-conference...they are on that kind of path.

So here's the thing.  That's how good the MAC needs to get.  You can see it.  We are not there yet but we can get there.  Competition makes us better.

So, with 4:25 minutes left in this exact game, BG was down 3.  That's a one-possession game.  From there on in, UB went 13-2 and put the game away.  That included a 12-0 run that put the game away.  BG obviously had nothing...two turnovers, two blocked shots, one missed front end and two missed shots.  Honestly, in two possessions, the game went from competitive to over.

That's what you have to do to win championships.  In crunch time, Buffalo won every battle.  Tip of that hat.  Against a team that good, two bad minutes can kill you.

There were positives.  UB outshot BG.  The Falcons shot 46% from 2FG and 27% on 3FG.  BG is 1-9 in games where they shot under 30% from 3FG.  Buffalo had a significant advantage on turnovers as well.  The key thing for BG was rebounding, which was considered a big issue coming in.  BG dominated the game on the boards, and if anything failed to convert those offensive rebounds into the easy baskets they are supposed to be.  Lastly, Buffalo was 16 of 21 at the line and BG was 10 of 15.

Overall, BG scored .99 points per possession in the end while UB scored 1.18.  If you could do either one of them, you'd be in good shape.  I have no idea where it was with 4 minutes left, but probably a lot closer.

Individually, Daeqwon Plowden had a huge game--a good portent for the future.  He scored 16 points, shooting 7 of 9 and 2 of 3, 8 rebounds and a steal and a block.  And the top MAC highlight of the year, according to the video board.

Justin Turner also had 16, but he had to work at it.  He shot 5 of 21 and 2 of 7.  He had 3 assists and 3 turnovers.  Demajeo Wiggins had 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 10 rebounds--but was 4 of 8 from the turnovers.  Michael Laster had 13 on 5 of 11 shooting and 5 rebounds.

As a team, BG had only 6 assists.

One other note.  Coach did tighten the rotation up.  Wiggins played 35 minutes, for example.  It was his most minutes all year...he played 34 @Ohio U.  Plowden played 32 minutes, his season-high.  Meanwhile, Lillard played 10 minutes and Uju 2--both their lowest of the year....and Sierra played 7, his lowest since the Toledo game.

So, BG opted to reduce their rotation from 9 to, essentially, 6 or 6.5.  That's a surprise, especially on the third straight night of playing.  I would guess that Coach Huger wanted to match UB's talent level and felt he needed a shorter rotation.  We'll never know, but part of the price might have been the slow close.  Or, if you play a bigger rotation, you're not in the game at the end.  But BG clearly used a different pattern than they did the rest of the year.

So, we await the news about our next step.  We'd expect to be in a tournament.  I don't think we're in the NIT and I don't think UT is a lock.  But, hopefully, we get a shot at one of the other two and Coach says we will accept, which I think is the right call.

More to come on the year as a whole and our matchup, etc.  For now, just appreciation for what was probably our best year since 2002.  Can't wait until November.

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