The University at Buffalo’s postgame news conference, despite the Bulls’ 65-55 victory over Delaware State, was more heavy on discontent than elation. Bulls coach Bobby Hurley clearly expected more from his team, which was victorious in front of 2,112 on Saturday at Alumni Arena.
Hurley had wanted the Bulls to jump on the Hornets from the start but they shot 45.5 percent in the first 20 minutes and trailed 32-25 at the half. Hurley wanted to build a substantial lead – more than the 13 points with five minutes left in the contest – but the Bulls never gained complete separation.
Delaware State (1-5), which runs the conservative flex offense under longtime coach Greg Jackson, controlled the game’s tempo throughout, which was another source of frustration for Hurley.
To beat a team on a four-game losing streak, the Bulls didn’t need to play at an optimal level and perhaps the players knew that coming in. The Bulls got the victory, though it was a rather forgettable one.
“I’m disappointed with the effort, it’s not the type of performance that a good team would have, so it’s not a great night but it is a win,” Hurley said.
Freshman Shannon Evans led the team with 13 points and four steals off the bench, while Jarod Oldham and Will Regan each had 12 points. No other Bull hit double figures – the team’s most prolific scorer, Javon McCrea, was held to nine points – as Buffalo (3-2) won its third straight.
“I am happy for Shannon, who had his best game by far,” Hurley said. “Forget about how many points he scored, he made good decisions, he played great defense, did all the things that we asked him to do. Jarod, the same way, I always feel good about the effort he brings to the table defensively and how he competes.”
Delaware State was able to hang for nearly the entire game but Hurley wanted a bludgeoning. Evans and Oldham accompanied Hurley for postgame interviews and the coach said, “These two guys, I’m glad they’re sitting with me right now because I’m in a dark place. I’m glad I have these two guys because I wouldn’t really pick anyone else to have with me here right now.”
In their last game, against Robert Morris, the Bulls appeared rejuvenated defensively by holding the Colonials to 34.6 percent shooting in an 81-66 win. The Hornets prefer a slow tempo, bleeding 20 seconds from the shot clock with a dribbled weave before executing their offense.
“It puts a heavy emphasis on containing the dribbler and making them shooting a tough shot late in the clock and then securing the rebound,” Hurley said. “We didn’t do that at times and gave them additional possessions and it caused us to play more defense than we should have.”
Hurley said there were breakdowns in the Bulls’ man-to-man, which saw Delaware State guards Casey Walker, Charles Burley and Tyshawn Bell dip into the lane and feed leading scorer Kendall Gray (15 points) for easy layups.
But the Bulls did create 17 turnovers that led to 20 points.
“Our job is to create pressure on the ball and get out and run and we knew they wanted to play a 2-3 and slow the game down,” Evans said. “That’s really not our style of play so we try and get easy buckets in transition. We try and run.”
A good sign came early in the first half with the Hornets leading by one. Off a Walker turnover, Oldham sprinted down the middle of the court and when he was in the lane he flipped an underhanded lob pass to Deyshonee Much for a two-handed dunk that put the Bulls in the lead for good.
“We created some turnovers up top with the ball pressure,” said Oldham, who had three steals. “We try and do that every game and that was the focus.”
McCrea, meanwhile, took only six shots as the Hornets clearly made limiting the senior big man a point of emphasis. The 6-foot-10 Gray should be given a nod for working hard for position against McCrea, but McCrea needed an assist from his perimeter shooters to spread the floor initially but the Bulls were just 3 of 10 from three-point range in the first half.
UB did show some resilience by building its largest lead of 13 points while McCrea was on the bench in foul trouble, but Hurley still lamented the Bulls’ inability to jump out of the gate quickly.
“It’s been a bit of a pattern lately,” he said. “Our guys know when you have your chances to make plays, you have to make them. If someone gets you an open shot, you have to make the shot. It really becomes real simple at times.”