Monday, September 01, 2008

The GBU: Queen's vs Buffalo (hoops)

Breaking down Sunday night's basketball game between the Gaels and the University at Buffalo Bulls (who have a surprisingly close name to that other Buffalo team invading Canada for pre-season games)...

The score: 88-61, Buffalo.

How I saw it: In person.

The Good:

Mitch Leger: Leger had his fourth consecutive game with over 20 points, racking up 23 points (on 10 of 15 shooting from the field) and nine rebounds (two offensive) in 28 minutes of action. He scored nine of Queen's first 11 points, but his effectiveness went down after Buffalo started to double-team him. I talked with Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon afterwards, and he said he didn't have much information on individual Queen's players before the match, so they weren't particularly prepared for Leger. Once he started lighting them up, though, Buffalo made the adjustment to a double-team on Leger in the post and challenged the Gaels' other shooters to beat them. Leger was still somewhat effective while double-teamed, but he picked up two quick fouls and had to ride the pine for a while. He still had a decent second half, but only put up eight points to the 15 he got in the first and earned himself two technicals and an ejection. Leger was vital to Queen's play: while he was on the floor, they were keeping it close, but Buffalo went on a run whenever he left.

Dan Bannister: The second-year guard had a pretty good game for the Gaels, suggesting that he might provide some of the secondary scoring this team certainly needs. He put up 16 points on seven-of-12 shooting, and made two of his three three-point shots. However, this comes with a qualification: see The Ugly below.

(By the way, people really should get together on how to spell his name. The roster I was given has it as Bannister, but the stat sheet has Banister, which is also how he's listed on His Facebook page has the two N version, so that's what I'm using until further notice, but it's stuff like this that leads to stat mixups: I remember looking at one OUA box score last year that featured Dan Banister, Dan Bannister and Daniel Bannister, with all three having different stats.)

Baris Ondul: Perhaps Baris is reading this blog. After I mentioned his horrible three-point shooting performance against Anderson, he came back with a tremendous performance against Buffalo. This time around, he was mostly taking good shots, and made four out of his nine field goal attemps (including three of his five three-point attempts). He also distributed the ball effectively, racking up five assists and only turning it over once.

Tim Boyle: Boyle didn't put up an impressive stat line (three points on one-of-three shooting and three rebounds), but he did a great job in his defensive stopper role. He also played with a ton of heart: it was quite something to see the 6'3'' Boyle battling in the post against Buffalo's 6'8'' or 6'9'' guys, and often coming up with the rebound himself or tipping it to a teammate.

Rob Shaw: I'm somewhat conflicted on this one, as Shaw didn't make a single one of his five shots from the field. Four of those were three-point attempts, and the majority of them were poor decisions. However, Shaw proved an excellent playmaker and racked up eight assists to just one turnover: highly unusual stats for a big man, but still effective. He also added two blocks and five rebounds. I would have preferred to see him use his size more to drive the lane, but he turned in a strong overall performance.

The Bad:

Rodney Pierce: His name suggests a combination of Rodney Stuckey and Paul Pierce, and that isn't a bad description of the Buffalo guard. Pierce isn't the tallest guy on Buffalo's roster (6'2''), but he's got a lot of muscle, and he was able to both drive effectively and shoot from the outside. He went 10 for 19 from the field (as well as five for eight from beyond the arc) and put up 25 points and five rebounds.

Calvin Betts: This game's a prime example of impressions deceiving. From watching, you'd think that most of Buffalo's points were from their numerous big men who dominated the paint. What was working even better for them, though, was driving the lane and then kicking it out to the guards, who would either drain the shot or drive the lane themselves for a layup. Betts is another short guard (6'3''), and he put up Buffalo's second-best stat line of the night: 16 points on six-for-eight shooting (including a two-of-three from downtown effort).

The Gaels' fourth quarter:
Queen's kept it pretty close through three quarters of the game. They were outscored 14-11, 25-20 and 19-16 in those quarters, which created a not insurmountable eleven-point deficit going into the fourth. They were dominated in the fourth, though, and only put up 14 points against Buffalo's 30.

The Ugly:

The late technicals: Queen's managed to pick up five technical fouls in the dying moments of the game to Buffalo's one. Two of the technicals were assessed to Leger, two to the bench, and one to Shaw. Passion is good, but that lack of discipline isn't particularly something you want to see in an exhibition game.

The turnovers: Queen's turned over the ball 24 times in total, compared to Buffalo's 13 turnover. The chief culprit was Bannister, who only recorded three assists and turned the ball over 10 times, which is pretty ugly. Leger and Boyle also had four turnovers each.

Buffalo's pressure: It was the Bulls' high-intensity full-court press that created many of those turnovers, several of which came when the Gaels were moving the ball up the court. There were even quite a few off inbounds passes, which really shouldn't be happening at this level.

Buffalo's size advantage: The Bulls had three players listed as 6'9'', two more listed as 6'8'' and two more at 6'7''. By comparision, Queen's tallest players are Leger and Patrick Beswick, who are both only listed at 6'7''. Buffalo's players were also solidly-built packages of muscle, while the Gaels tend to be skinnier. As a comparision, Buffalo guard Betts, who's 6'3'', weighs 225 pounds. That's the same as both Shaw and Leger, Queen's two most muscular players.

One play from Ryan Hairsine: Hairsine was all right on the night, but one play of his summed up the Gaels' night. He beat his defender on the dribble and pulled up to launch an open three-pointer, but the ball slipped out of his hands and only flew about three feet. There were plenty of times when the Gaels would do the right thing initially, but couldn't finish the deal.

Post-game reaction:

Queen's guard Dan Bannister:

- On the loss as a letdown, given their long upcoming break before the regular season: "It was our last game going into a month-long break. We really wanted to have a better showing."

- On Buffalo's size advantage:"They kind of beat us up a little. They're bigger than us, but that's no excuse."

- On where things went wrong:"We played a strong first half, but we let it get away in the second half."

- On the upcoming break:"We've got a month now to do everything right that we did wrong."

Queen's head coach Rob Smart:

- On how the main problem was Queen's being tired after their 102-94 win[] over the University of South Alabama the previous day(it was on the road, and I was tied up in Journal meetings, so I wasn't there to cover it): "We played three overtimes yesterday, so I think that's what went wrong. I think we were exhausted. ... Every step, you're a little slower and that just hurts you."

- On how important the win over Alabama was: "I don't think you can explain how big beating South Alabama is. Their coach is probably making half a million a year!"

- On how he was only able to utilize Patrick Beswick briefly due to his shin splints: "He goes for a couple minutes and he just can't go any more."

- On what led to the technical fouls: "I got really upset because we run a cutter off the high post almost every play. ... What bothers me is when one of their guys doesn't read the screen at all, gets hit, and then they call us for a charge."

Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon:

- On his team's play: "We're still a little ragged at times. It's that time of the year."

- On what changed in the second half: "I think we had a bit better pressure on defence, forcing them into some turnovers."

- On how his main goal was to stop Queen's outside shooting: "They shoot the ball so well from the arc. ... We wanted to do a better job of stopping that [in the second half]."

- On how Queen's compared to the other teams they had faced on this tour, the defending CIS champion Brock Badgers and the McMaster Marauders: "This is the best opposition we've played."
[That was a pretty surprising comment in my mind, given how one-sided the game turned out. Still, Queen's did stick with Buffalo pretty well, except in the fourth. For reference, the Bulls beat the Badgers 109-67 [Brock Athletics]. McMaster doesn't seem to have a release posted on their game and neither does Buffalo, so that might have just been a scrimmage. Carleton beat Buffalo 84-74 [David Kent, Carleton Athletics] in the final game of the Bulls' tour Monday.]

- On the level of CIS basketball as a whole: "I think the quality of competition is really underrated. It presents us with a challenge. These teams are well-coached. ... It's tremendous preparation for us."

- On if the Bulls will be back in future seasons: "The [NCAA] rules only allow us to do it [make a trip to Canada] once every four years. We'd love to do it every year."

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