Bulls keep running
Men's basketball puts up big numbers with newcomer Jeremy Harris
The UB men’s basketball team is positioned to finish as the highest scoring team in school history. After Friday’s game with Western Michigan, Buffalo is now first in the Mid-American Conference averaging 83.3 points per game, 2.5 points higher than the current school record.
The Bulls have already matched last year’s total wins with 17 and they still have eight games left to play. The Bulls (17-6, 9-1 MAC) have been hot since they entered MAC play winning their first eight games before losing to Kent State (12-11, 6-4 MAC) on Tuesday. The emergence of newcomers junior guard Jeremy Harris and senior guard Wes Clark have been the big reasons for their control of the MAC.
“I think the x-factor for them has been Harris,” said Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins. “You’ve got some good guards, but then you add a fourth man out there like Harris that’s capable of shooting the three or posting up and getting to the rim or bringing the ball up the court… that causes problems.”
Harris is currently averaging 13.9 points per game, one of four Bulls averaging double-digit scoring. He is leading the way from deep with a team-high 41.4 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Harris, who is in his first year at the Division-I level, took some time to adjust to the new level of competition. But in conference play his averages have gone up to 16.8 points per game and a 50 percent from deep.
“In the beginning of the season, I was thinking a little bit about just scoring the ball which that’s what messed me up,” Harris said. “Coach Oats got on me a little bit to just let it come; don’t force anything and just playing with my teammates and they’re getting me open shots.”
Bulls head coach Nate Oats credits some of Harris’s early struggles to his own misunderstanding of how Harris plays.
“Part of it was my fault early because I knew how well he could score so I was trying to run a bunch of stuff for him and get him to be super aggressive,” Oats said. “We’re back to running stuff for him because he’s a really good teammate. He’s easy to play with.”
Buffalo has been able to move the ball as unit all season. Clark and sophomore guard Davonta Jordan have been leading the distribution with 5.9 and 4.1 assists per game, respectively. Clark’s 14.1 points per contest is also good for third on the team.
The offense has been unselfish, currently ranking in the top 50 in the nation with assists.
The non-selfish approach has created a team that is clicking heading into the final stretch of the season.
“The thing that I love about them on film is that their chemistry jumps off the film,” Hawkins said. “You can tell these guys like to play with each other. They share the ball, they don't seem to care who takes the shot.”
Oats feels the only area the Bulls need to work on is defense. The 82 points they gave up against Kent State was the second most they’ve given up to a MAC opponent this season. They are also currently ranked second to last in the MAC in points allowed per game.
The Bulls looked strong defensively to start Friday and held the Broncos to just 30 points in the first half, but the second half almost got away from them. After dropping an 18 point lead in the game against Kent State, Buffalo did just enough to avoid a similar fate in the game.
“Fifty-six points in the second half [from Western Michigan] is not good,” Oats said. “We gotta get back to guarding, … we are not back where we need to be but we are back winning.”
Daniel Petruccelli is the sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org