By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY – Bobby Hurley got what he expected. He just didn’t get that for which he hoped.
Hurley expected his UB Bulls to have to grind out a victory Saturday afternoon. The first-year coach hoped his team would handle the challenge better than it did.
Shannon Evans came off the bench and scored a career-high 13 as UB improved to 3-2 with a 65-55 victory over the Delaware State Hornets (1-5) at Alumni Arena, Saturday afternoon.
The win was the third in a row for the Bulls just don’t wait for Hurley to be excited.
“The object of any game you play in ultimately is to win the game, so we accomplished that,” Hurley commented. “Outside of that, there is not a lot that I am happy about with our performance tonight.”
Evans hit 3-of-5 shots from the perimeter and added five free throws, but he made his biggest contribution on the defensive end of the floor. The freshman combined with senior Jarod Oldham for seven of UB’s 11 steals on the day.
“These guys were terrific defensively,” Hurley said referring to the two guards. “Seven steals between the two of them. They were able to create some problems.”
The pair led the way as UB took a first-half lead it never relinquished.
Oldham fed Evans for a catch-and-shoot three and an 11-8 edge.
After DeAndre Haywood sparked a 9-0 spurt to give Delaware State its largest lead of the game, the Bulls tightened on defense and held the Hornets scoreless for the next five and half minutes.
Javon McCrea hit one of two free throws. Oldham finished a layup and then fed Deyshonee Much for an alley-oop dunk on a two-on-one break for an 18-17 edge. Oldham scored in the lane. McCrea made it 22-17 with a bucket at the rim. Will Regan capped the run when he took a block-to-block pass from Justin Moss and scored from the left side.
UB led 24-17 with 2:11 left before the break.
“The energy picks up when we get stops, and we do a good job on the defensive end. It really all comes down to that,” Hurley stated. “We get energized when we’re able to push the pace… It works hand in hand. If we did a better job at the other end of the floor, more of the 40 minutes could have been that way. It was far from what we needed to have a great performance.”
Five UB turnovers in the first 12 minutes led to four Delaware State points, and they were able to score four second-chance points in taking its largest lead. Hurley knew Delaware State would run a flex offense in an attempt to run the clock and possess the ball. He also expected the Hornets to use primarily a zone defense to slow the Bulls attack.
With a lead the Hornets were able to be patient and run that baseline flex offense and take possessions deep into the shot clock.
“It’s a conservative way of playing, but it’s their style based on their team that they feel like they can stay in games and have a chance to win,” Hurley explained. “They’ve done this with their other games where they want to use 20 seconds of the shot clock and then try and score late. It puts a heavy emphasis on really containing the dribbler and making them shoot a tough shot late in the clock and then securing the rebound. We didn’t do that at times. We gave them additional possessions which caused us to play more defense that we should have. There were breakdowns throughout.”
Delaware State trimmed the deficit to one early in the second stanza.
“Guys were getting in the lane,” Hurley continued. “The ball was being dropped off to their big kid Gray, and he was finishing. There were a lot of problems that were happening. I thought we were flat. I thought we were flat coming out, and we discussed really coming out strong, making a statement early in the game, about what we were going to be about. We allowed them to stay in the game because we never did that.”
UB scored the next eight. Evans responded to the Delaware State run when he drilled a three.
The Hornets were called for a shot-clock violation. Then they committed a traveling violation on the next trip.
McCrea scored from the right block surrounded by four defenders. Much nailed a trey from the left corner, and UB led 42-33.
Oldham eventually returned the lead to 10 with a pair of free throws and a 50-40 UB advantage with 7:11 to go.
Oldham and Regan added a dozen points apiece. Joshua Freelove and McCrea each had nine points.
McCrea and Regan both grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
Oldham dished out five assists.
Gray scored a game-high 15 for Delaware State. Haywood chipped in 11.
UB hosts Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure next Saturday, December 7th. A 2 p.m. tip time is scheduled at Alumni Arena.
Delaware State lost to Georgia Tech, Clemson and George Washington prior Saturday’s matchup. The Hornets host Bible Baptist Monday, December 2nd.
Paul Gotham is the founder, owner, editor and lead writer at Pickin’ Splinters. Paul is the Communications and Media Director of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. He is a USA Today Contributor and member of the USBWA. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PickinSplinters.