COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Whenever this happened during his first three seasons on the sidelines, Bobby Hurley could commiserate with his brother Danny and together the two could determine how to proceed. But Bobby’s on his own now. He’s not Danny’s assistant any longer. And perhaps that never hit home quite like it did in the closing minutes of UB’s 82-58 loss to Texas A&M Friday night at Reed Arena.
“As much as you know about the game and as much as you’ve been through as a player, and even my last three years working with my brother, it’s a different game when you’re coaching,” Hurley said. “It feels pretty lonely at times. And it did late in the second half.
“But I really enjoy coaching my team. I love being around them in practice. We were competitive for stretches tonight, it just didn’t all come into place.”
UB was more than competitive in stretches. It was in the lead with just over 13 minutes remaining before being crushed by the weight of the moment and unfavorable circumstance.
All-MAC forward Javon McCrea scored 14 points but was limited to 23 minutes by foul trouble. Point guard Jarod Oldham handed out five assists against one turnover but was limited to 20 minutes by foul trouble. Their absences proved more than the Bulls were ready to handle against an SEC team with a coach, Billy Kennedy, under the gun to improve on last year’s 18-win season.
“I don’t think anything that we really experienced in the preseason, in practice and scrimmaging will prepare you for this level of game,” Hurley said. “I think we’re going to learn a lot from it. Moving forward for our situation, I need Javon McCrea on the floor for more minutes. I need Jarod Oldham on the floor for more minutes. Due to foul issues I was handcuffed with that. That’s a problem when you’re playing an opponent of this caliber.”
“It was definitely frustrating because I wanted to be out there with my teammates,” said McCrea, who picked up his third foul inside the first two minutes of the second half. “I kind of felt like it was my fault the deficit was so big. We just have to bounce back from this.”
With McCrea and Oldham limited, the Aggies were able to force the issue. They harassed the Bulls on the perimeter as true freshman Shannon Evans was pressed into handling the point. They took advantage of mismatches on the inside. All five starters reached double figures, led by guard Jordan Green and forward Kourtney Roberson with 15 points apiece. Roberson, a 6-foot-9 junior, also had a game-high 11 rebounds.
“We got in the huddle when they started out kind of hot in the second half and we told everybody that we got to get going,” Roberson said, “We started scoring in the paint and turned it around.”
For seven minutes after intermission UB looked primed to take the Aggies to the wire. The Bulls turned a 48-42 deficit into a 49-48 lead as junior forward Xavier Ford scored inside and added two free throws before senior newcomer Josh Freelove converted a three-point play off a steal and jam. Shortly thereafter, McCrea picked up his fourth foul on a dubious charging call with about 12½ minutes remaining.
The Aggies regained control and built their lead steadily from there as UB shot just 24 percent in the second half and 31.3 percent for the game.
“The guys are still adjusting and learning a new system so it wasn’t as clean as I would have liked,” Hurley said. “I think our field goal percentage is indicative of that. But that being said, I just give a lot of credit to Texas A&M. Their perimeter defense, I thought, was very good. They were disruptive, getting in passing lines, which at times I think threw the timing of our offense off.
“I thought we made a nice run in the second half, put ourselves back in the game with a chance to win despite having some foul-trouble issues from key players.”
Yes, coaching can be a lonely business. Especially when two of your team’s top weapons are silenced by circumstance.
“I think we definitely played them tough,” McCrea said. “But things didn’t go right. We’ll bounce back on Niagara next time.”
Game Two of the Hurley Era is Wednesday night at Niagara.