Jeremy Harris found himself mired in a recent slump – if one can call averaging 14 points per game in your last five games a sag of sorts.
Yet, the University at Buffalo guard scored nine points and went without a 3-pointer Friday against Eastern Michigan, which forced him to take stock in his game.
Maybe Harris spent too much time in the gym trying to work through the lull. Or maybe not.
UB coach Nate Oats noted that the senior from Greensboro, N.C., had to be kept out of the gym for a stretch earlier this season, after he received a cortisone shot in his hand during the fall due to what Oats called “an overuse injury.”
“Because he shot too much,” Oats said. “We had to tell him to back it off a bit, but he’s back at it now.”
If Harris was in a slump, he found a skillful way to break out of the funk. Harris scored a career-high 34 points and went 6-for-10 on 3-pointers in UB’s 110-80 win against Toledo on Tuesday at Alumni Arena.
“My teammates just did a good job of finding me open shots,” said Harris, who hit his sixth 3-pointer and crossed the 30-point threshold at 10:39 of the second half. “I didn’t shoot too many of my shots off the dribble, so all the credit to my teammates, knowing I was feeling it a little bit tonight and they found me the shots.
“I’ve been struggling, and now that I’ve hit a couple of shots, they want me to shoot every shot, if I can.”
The win against the Rockets in a rematch of the 2018 MAC Tournament championship game became an exercise in the Bulls’ offensive depth. Harris was one of five players to score in double figures for the Bulls (14-1, 2-0 MAC), who led by 20 points in the first half and by 38 in the second half.
UB set a program record for points in a MAC game, and on Tuesday the Bulls eclipsed the 100-point mark for the second time this season. The Bulls defeated Dartmouth 110-71 on Nov. 21.
In addition to Harris, Nick Perkins scored 21 points, C.J. Massinburg scored 17 points, Jayvon Graves scored 13 and Dontay Caruthers scored 10. The Bulls finished 43-for-83 from the floor, including 50 percent on 3-pointers (15 for 30).
The Bulls simply astounded the Rockets (12-3, 0-2) and coach Tod Kowalczyk.
“We played extremely frustrated and with a lack of composure,” Kowalczyk said. “Give them credit, they're really good. They're every bit as good as 19th in the country, if not better.
“Their ball pressure frustrated us, took us out of any offensive rhythm, and offensively, we turned it over which led to transition baskets for them. And they got on a run, and once they get on a run, they're hard to stop.”
The Rockets turned the ball over nine times in the first half, and the Bulls registered seven steals, and built their offense off transition. Buffalo scored 10 points in the first half off turnovers, and 15 off fast breaks.
Toledo went scoreless or without a successful shot from the floor for spans of 5:37 and 3:20 in the first 16 minutes of the first half. The Rockets, however, closed the first half by scoring eight points in the final 2:15, which cut the Bulls’ lead to 45-32 at the half.
Toledo guard Marreon Jackson (20 points) hit back-to-back buckets at the start of the second half – a layup nine seconds into the half and a 3-pointer 30 seconds later -- before Graves’ 3-pointer at 1:02 of the second half pushed UB’s lead back to 11.
“We wanted to come out and punch them in the mouth for 40 minutes, and I thought we did a good job of that,” Oats said. “I wasn’t happy with that close in the (first half). The last two minutes, we gave up a 13-2 run, or maybe it was 12-3, but then our offense was clicking early in the second half. Our defense was about as bad as our offense was good, and once we got that fixed, then we were kind of able to blow the thing open there.”