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Extra Points: UB stays in thick of tight MAC with Ball State win

Extra points after the University at Buffalo’s 76-64 win over Ball State at Alumni Arena:

x-THE FIRST THING UB coach Nate Oats said upon entering the post-game press room was: “We needed that one.”

The Mid-American Conference East Division looks like this: Kent State 6-1, Akron 5-2, Buffalo 4-3, Bowling Green 4-3, Ohio 3-4, Miami 0-7. UB already has won at Kent.

Said Oats: “That was a win we needed in a bad way if we were going to stay in this conference race. The coaches knew it. The players knew it. You hate to say there’s must wins this early in the year. Kent got a win tonight. There’s a big difference between 4-3 and two games behind ‘em when we still get ‘em at our place and 3-4. I thought our energy was 100 percent better than it was Saturday at Western. Guys played hard. We made them miss threes. That’s a three-point shooting team that runs great offense. They run you through a million screens and get great looks. To hold them to 22 percent speaks volumes to just how hard our guys played.”

x-UB’S JARRYN SKEETE played an outstanding game. Skeete is a streaky three-point shooter. Sometimes great. Sometimes cold. But I love the fact he doesn’t jeopardize the team by jacking up too many threes. Today’s story on Skeete is here: http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/ub-clamps-down-on-ball-states-top-scorer-in-win-20160127

x-OATS ON UB’S DEFENSE: “This was more of a defensive game for us. But we’d been struggling turning the ball over. We had 11 turnovers tonight, which is really good for us. They’re not scoring off turnovers.”

“If we can get our defense set, I think we can be really good defensively. We were having problems earlier in the year with some of those turnovers, we just couldn’t guard the layup or the dunk on the other end. We didn’t have those tonight. We forced Ball State into 19 turnovers. Their leading scorer had five turnovers. He had zero made field goals. He only scored three points, and two free throws came in the last 10 seconds or he would have only had one point. I thought our defensive energy was great and it’s something to build on going from here.”

x-RANKINGS: UB moved up to 155th in the country this morning in the Pomeroy analytics. The top of the MAC: Akron (89), Northern Illinois (131), Kent (132), Eastern Michigan (139), Toledo (143), Central Michigan (148), UB (155), Ohio (162), Ball State (168).

x-BALL STATE COACH James Whitford: “I thought Buffalo played a great game. They really wore us down in the second half. We couldn’t get a stop in the final eight or nine minutes. We tried everything. We never play zone. But they just kept taking us off the dribble, and that was really the difference.”

x-UB’S OFFENSE THE LAST 7 MINUTES: 13 possessions, 11 scores. Big shots: Willie Conner hit a corner three-ball after UB swung the ball around nicely; Blake Hamilton drove baseline for a layup; Hamilton drove the lane and made a 9.1 degree-of-difficulty hanging bank shot to put UB up 66-59; Skeete stole the ball and then threw a Cam Newton (his comparison) long bomb to Lamonte Bearden for a layup and foul.

x-BALL STATE STOPPER, 6-6 Franko House, fouled out with 5:25 left, which helped UB’s run, said Whitford: “Hamilton to me is the guy who really makes the engine go for them because he plays the 4 for them, and he’s a really difficult matchup at that position. That hasn’t been a problem for us because Franko House is one of the best on-the-ball defenders we have and he can switch pick and rolls and we’re fine. But when Franco got in foul trouble, Blake Hamilton really hurt us in the second half. When that was out of our arsenal we tried everything and none of it worked.”

x-GOOD COACHING: Oats decided to have Bearden pick up Ball State’s ball-handler full court early in the game. Bearden was iffy on the idea because he’s coming off an ankle injury and was worried about his stamina. It worked brilliantly. UB forced Ball State to take one of its shooters off the court in order to help bring the ball up.

Whitford on Monte: “He’s really hard to deal with in that regard. I’ll also tell you – and this takes nothing away from Lamonte Bearden because he’s a really good player – he’s the fifth straight point guard to absolutely blitz us off the dribble. That’s something we have to look in the mirror at. Point guards in this league can’t wait to play us right now. Lamonte was no exception.”

“I thought he really impacted the game when he picked us up full. I thought that impacted us as much as anything because it really took us out of rhythm on offense. It didn’t allow us to play with any pace. I thought he made the game hard for us, not as much with his half-court defense but his full-court defense.”

x-UB FORWARD DAVID KADIRI sat out with a sprained ankle. Oats said Kadiri thinks he will be ready for Saturday at Toledo.

x-BEARDEN was wearing funky, Kevin Durant sneakers that looked half Chicago Bulls and half New York Knicks.

x-SKEETE ON his key strip defending the low post vs. Ryan Weber, who he held to three points (all free throws): “That’s what my main concern was watching his scout before the game. If he’s going to post me up all game, I’m not going to do that. But chasing him around and fighting over flares I could do that. He posted me up, hit me like bump, bump, and I was going to fall but he showed the ball, so I stripped it and I saw Te up the floor and that was it. He’s not really a post-up game.”

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