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Immediate reactions: UB 78, St. Bonaventure 73

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

A hot three-point shooting barrage late in the second half propelled the University at Buffalo Bulls past Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure, 78-73, in front of 4,652 at Alumni Arena.

UB freshman guard Shannon Evans scored 17 points—15 in the second half with senior starter Jarod Oldham on the bench with foul trouble—and threes from Josh Freelove, Evans, Will Regan and Jarryn Skeete in the final 5:14 were too much for the visitors to keep pace with.

Javon McCrea, UB’s leading scorer and Preseason First Team All-MAC selection, did not attempt a shot from the floor in the second half—a startling stat due to the congestion of the Bonnies’ zone. With McCrea’s effectiveness limited, a resurgent supporting cast picked up the slack, as six other players scored six points or more.

On the other side, St. Bonaventure’s top guard Matthew Wright, who averaged 18.4 points per game coming in, left with what looked to be a calf or ankle injury and missed the game’s final 14:50. Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt had no post-game updates on Wright’s status, other than that the SBU trainer cautioned that the Canadian sharpshooter should not reenter the contest.

UB extends its winning streak to four games and now stands at 4-2. The Bonnies fall to 6-3 overall.

Let’s get to the immediate reactions:

—The Hurley Factor: Bobby Hurley’s first season as an NCAA Division I head coach is the biggest storyline at UB this year, more meaningful on a national scale than even Javon McCrea’s senior season.

To call the former Duke point guard “animated” on the sidelines would be an egregious understatement; when he’s not berating officials—he earned a technical foul with 7:46 left in the game—he’s gesturing constantly with a maniacally-intense expression and, let’s face it—he curses with reckless abandon.

Hurley’s sustained energy suggests a near-constant flow of Five Hour Energy coursing through his veins, but simply watching his mannerisms and reactions throughout a game is worth the price of admission.

—Fan-favorite: UB Spectrum editor-in-chief Aaron Mansfield was spot-on in his early-season prediction that the diminutive Evans would become beloved to the Alumni Arena faithful.

With UB trailing 57-52 and Bona holding much of the momentum, Evans nailed an off-balance three-pointer on the right wing, stole a pass in the lane on the next possession, then exploded down the floor before getting fouled at the rim (one of two free-throws). After a Bonaventure make, Evans drilled a floater in the lane to bring UB back within one, 59-58.

A 6’1, 170-pound ball of energy and optimism, Evans is fearless and doesn’t seem intimidated by a higher level of basketball. While he does make his share of silly, out-of-control plays characteristic of a first-year player, watch his minutes rise as the season progresses.

Filzen-less Bulls: One big worry entering 2013-14 for UB was a dearth of outside shooting, and it was evident today as the Bulls started 2-13 from downtown. During Zach Filzen’s tenure as a Bull, his mere presence on the perimeter created space for Javon McCrea—who took only three shots in the game—to operate in the post.

With the 2013-14 iteration of Bulls basketball, it’s not as easy to feature UB’s best player. St. Bonaventure spent most of the game in a zone defense, clogging the lane and forcing the young Bulls guards to beat them on the perimeter.

Unlike a longer zone like Jim Boeheim’s at Syracuse, there were plenty of gaps in the corners against St. Bonaventure’s 2-3, and Hurley’s Bulls exploited those late in the second half, hitting six of their final 10 threes.

—Herd of Bulls: The adjustment rate to Bobby Hurley’s style as opposed to Reggie Witherspoon’s seems to be quicker for the Bulls’ guards, which—given Hurley’s history—shouldn’t be too shocking.

The former Duke great has a bevy weapons at his disposal—senior Jarod Oldham, sophomore Jarryn Skeete and transfer Josh Freelove all started in the three-guard starting five, while Evans was sprinkled in liberally.

The deep rotation allows Hurley to attack at both ends without wearing down or becoming overly concerned about Oldham earning his fourth foul with 18 minutes left in the game.

—Violent slams: A mini-ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 could have been compiled, as UB’s Javon McCrea and Josh Freelove, as well as St. Bonaventure’s Charlon Kloof, threw down emphatic dunks.

Midway through the first half, UB freshman guard Shannon Evans accelerated down the right side of the lane and tossed a floater off the glass—the ball popped up into the air gently, allowing McCrea to sky and crush a put-back jam. Adding insult to injury, UB’s star forward stared down the man he dunked over—Bona’s Chris Dees—as they jogged down the floor.

Will Regan’s lazy pass on the perimeter later in the first half allowed Kloof to nip in and start a one-man fast break. With a Bull defender closing quickly, the 6’3 St. Bonaventure senior PG rose high to slam with his right.

One-upping Kloof’s dramatic dunk was Josh Freelove, UB’s 6’2 off-guard. Isolated on the wing against Andell Cumberbatch, the transfer exploded to his right off the dribble, beating the Bona defender easily before elevating and throwing down a thunderous dunk over the Bonnies’ Marquise Simmons. Pretty good for a little guy.

—An afterthought as a scoring option in his first two years at St. Bonaventure, Charlon Kloof showed surprising comfort vs. UB in attacking the lane and finishing several contested layups, closing the affair with 17 points (tying the team-high).

Now a senior, the Suriname native will never be a confident jump-shooter—he did can a corner-three in a pressure situation—but opposing defenses can’t simply forget about him like in years past.

TAGGED: big 4 basketball, immediate reactions, st. bonaventure bonnies, ub bulls

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