The Result: The Bonnies beat Buffalo 72-63 tonight and improved to 5-1 for the second season in a row. The win effectively makes SBU the Big 4 Champions this year. No big deal.
The Rundown: This was a game that SBU really dominated, nearly from tip to final whistle. Save a UB run in the middle of the second half aided by a tremendous amount of fouls called on SBU, this game was really dictated by the Bonnies. SBU led 34-18 at the half and never looked back leading the entire way. Buffalo had an impossible time keeping the Bonnies out of the lane and paint as SBU hammered them with points inside. Not sure what the final stats say yet but at one point I think SBU had 46 points in the paint which is a ridiculous total. SBU knew UB was a good term in terms of defending the three so they played away from their strength and went at them inside with Ndoye and Wright who murdered the Bulls to the tune of a combined 36 points and 21 boards. Credit Schmidt for having that game plan ready and for doing a better job agains the zone defense that UB switched to.
What it means for the Bonnies: It means they are in very nice shape heading into their toughest games of the non-conference portion of the schedule: at Ohio and at Pittsburgh. It means this team has won 5/6 teams without Gathers and Gregg and has shown the ability to beat teams they should…that’s always nice to see and it doesn’t always happen. Aside from a complete clunker of an effort against Siena and this team would be a perfect 6-0. Now, we get a better sense of who they are coming up. If they win one of these two and are 6-2 you’d feel pretty damm good about this team.
The good news: The team has improved against the zone defense and they are really starting to go inside first and not force poor three point attempts. Our commitment to Ndoye and Wright in this game was great to see and of the 14 three pointers we took (made 5) I don’t know that any were really bad shots at all. I was worried we’d force some bad shots and not go inside but that did not happen at all tonight. Great strides made in that regard.
The bad news: Even I’m starting to grow concerned about our free throw shooting. 13-26 tonight meant that we nearly shot better from the field than the line. That’s impossible to do. Schmidt’s teams generally figure this out so I’m not freaking out just yet, but it may be that we just don’t have many quality shooters on this year’s club.
Player of the game: You could take Dion Wright, I’ll go with Ndoye. The big man had 17, 13 and 4 , and did so on 5-9 shooting and even made 5-7 foul shots. In his last two games Ndoye has morphed into the kind of player we knew he could be in the fall. If he puts out two more games like that vs. Ohio and Pitt we could split 1-1. Ndoye really does have the ability to be the best player on the floor in a majority of our games this season…it’s up to him to play like it.
Good stats: I said on twitter before the game I had a feeling we were going to shoot it well tonight and we did to the tune of 47%. Just five turnovers! Five! Got to not only be a season low but maybe a two season low. Tough to lose a game when you shoot it 47% and basically never turn it over…even when you are missing you foul shots.
Bad stats: Already mentioned the free throws, we were also beaten on the glass by three…but that’s also a byproduct of our good shooting (fewer chances for offensive boards) and their poor shooting via our good defense (more chances for offensive boards). Our bench again combined for just 8 points but I thought Alston was a really nice piece tonight with 5 points, 4 assists and 3 steals…he scored a few big buckets when we needed them getting inside of the UB defense. Once Gregg comes back and Gathers (whenever that happens) the bench depth will be less of an issue.
What we liked: Our ability to get inside their defense, which is/was good, basically any time we wanted. Loved going inside to Ndoye and giving Dion Wright a ton more touches away from the basket which allowed him to take guys off the bounce. Loved us not forcing bad three points, scoring a ton of PITP and running whenever we could. Can’t complain about holding UB to 36% shooting either, esp. in the first half when they shot, I believe 21% or something. I said we needed to hold them to less than 34% from three…they shot 30%. Nice game all the way around.
What we didn’t like: Foul shooting (50%), missing more than a few lay-ups on fast-breaks…that aside this game was a well played one by SBU. Vs. a better team our foul shooting may have cost us the game, it didn’t tonight. Hopefully we improve from the line heading into Ohio and Pitt.
Ivan Kovacevic Unsung Hero of the game: Alston. Really thought he provided a steady hand at the point when Adams was out. Got to the lane/ at the rim nearly at will and showed bursts of being an impactful player off the bench. It’s clear he’s not going to be a shooter but he can help this team in other ways and he does well running the fast-break. Adams is a steady hand and is a much better shooter, but Alston has a gear that Jay doesn’t have yet. They compliment each other in that way.
What’s Up Next: Bonnies head to Athens Ohio to take on the Bobcats who have generally been a thorn in our side for the last half decade. This will be our biggest test of the year and a nice tune-up for the game at Pitt which follows.
Prediction records: Ian is perfect so far, Shane and Vinny are all a game off the pace.