Takeaways from the University at Buffalo’s 76-66 season-opening victory over Niagara University Friday night:
x-Turnover lesson: The Bulls clearly missed star sophomore C.J. Massinburg, and it showed in the turnover total – 17.
Massinburg is out indefinitely with mononucleosis, and it’s not going to be a short absence. It’s going to be weeks, not days.
But UB did protect the ball better as the game wore on. UB made nine turnovers the first 12 minutes and eight the final 28 minutes. UB finished with 20 assists.
UB coach Nate Oats afterward provided some insight on the turnover factor:
Said Oats: “We had a scrimmage and an exhibition, and in both of them we had more turnovers than assists, so at least the turnovers was higher than the assists tonight.”
“I gave them a stat. A buddy of mine back in Michigan is a big numbers guy. I gave it to them two days ago. Up to this point in the NBA season, 72 percent of the time, the team with the higher assist-to-turnover ratio wins the game. So we had the higher assist-to-turnover ratio. We were 20 to 17. They were 5 to 16 the wrong way. So 17 turnovers is awful. We’d like to get that down around 10 to 12. But the 20 assists wasn’t bad. We’d like to see 20 to 10.”
x-UB and Niagara both looked about like what we expected. UB is good and it’s a strong contender in the Mid-American Conference. But the MAC is evenly matched. It’s a long season, and every team figures to have its ups and downs.
X-Niagara is improved over last season. The Purple Eagles are picked 11th out of 11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. They will be better than that.
x-UB’s newcomers look good. How much they progress between now and February could be a huge factor for the Bulls. Forward Quate McKinzie had 13 points and four rebounds, and Oats kept him on the floor 15 of 20 minutes in the second half. Neither he or point guard Davonta Jordan showed any typical freshman tentativeness. Jordan had six points, seven assists, four turnovers and five fouls in 23 minutes. If Jordan can come on, it will allow UB to play Massinburg more minutes in the off-guard scorer’s role, which will be better for the team. Actually, that’s the one benefit of Massinburg’s illness. It accelerates the development of Jordan. Jordan made the best defensive lay of the game, too. After making a turnover, he raced downcourt and pinned a shot by Dwayne Pow on the backboard. New sophomore point guard Dontay Carruthers looked excited to play defense, too, which is a good sign.
“We’ve got a freshman point guard,” Oats said. “He had seven assists, which is great. But he also had the four turnovers. (Nick) Perkins’ four turnovers is too many for a big guy. We’ve got to cut those downs.”
x-Best stretch of the game for UB: McKinzie got a rebound jam of a Perkins miss to put UB up, 61-58; Niagara freshman point guard James Towns answered with a three, and Niagara got two free throws from Chris Barton; Willie Conner hit a corner three; Jordan showed a nifty handle, penetrated the lane and dished to McKinzie for a layup; Conner hit a deep three and got knocked down, converting a four-point play to make it 70-63.
x-The question of whether UB is getting enough from its two centers, Raheem Johnson and Ikenna Smart, figures to be a subject of discussion among UB fans much of the season.
x-Niagara junior transfer Kahlil Dukes (Southern California) scored 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting and hit two three-pointers. He doesn’t have a Pac 12 body, but he’s crafty and he’s a good shooter. He’s a big addition for the Purple Eagles