Filzen, Mulkey Shoot Down the Rockets
Many students at UB were heading to their afternoon classes at 2 p.m. on Thursday during another typical day of school. Meanwhile, the men's basketball team was playing a matinée game due to Wednesday's snow day.
Despite their schedule being thrown off, the Bulls (14-6, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) had no problem disposing of Toledo (4-18, 1-7 MAC), winning by a score of 81-58.
Junior guard Zach Filzen led the team with a career-high 23 points and six rebounds, including five 3-pointers. Senior guard Byron Mulkey added 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals, with four long-range shots of his own.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon was glad that the postponement did not distract the team from increasing its winning streak to six games. The change of pace did have somewhat of an effect on the team's mindset, though.
"We did get thrown out of our routine," Witherspoon said. "Yesterday at practice, the guys were getting a little edgy. I said, ‘I've never seen guys this edgy on a snow day.' Growing up, a snow day was great. No class, just play basketball. But I think maybe their minds were ready for an opponent and not each other… I was concerned about whether we would be able to re-focus."
It may have taken until halftime for the Bulls to re-focus. Buffalo only led by five points at the break after some sloppy play, including 10 turnovers.
The Bulls were a different team in the second half, however – especially on the defensive end. During one stretch, junior forward Mitchell Watt had three blocks (he had four total), freshman forward Javon McCrea added another block, and Mulkey and Filzen each stole the ball. The intense defense led to easy offense for Buffalo.
"We really didn't execute our defensive scheme as well as we'd have liked to in the first half, so we really made a point of coming out with a lot more energy and a greater deal of concentration," Mulkey said. "When we play well on defense, the offense usually flows right into it, and we perform well."
On the offensive end, Filzen, the Bulls' leading scorer, was the hot hand yet again. With 6:27 remaining, he had scored 14 of the previous 17 Buffalo points. However, he was quick to deflect the praise to his teammates after the game.
"We're just running our offense, and whoever gets the looks gets the looks," Filzen said. "The way they were playing, I got some looks, but it will probably be a different guy next time. That's the way our offense works…. When we get the ball moving, we're pretty hard to guard…. I just tried to let it come to me and shoot it when I was open."
Buffalo will hope to bring the hot shooting and the tough defense to Muncie, Ind. on Saturday, when they will face MAC West-leading Ball State (13-7, 5-2 MAC) in an important conference matchup. It won't be easy, though, because of this week's altered schedule and the bad weather.
"The first big challenge for us is getting [to Ball State]," Witherspoon said. "We had a flight [Thursday] and they canceled it, and we tried to get another flight and there's not one available."
Witherspoon also indicated that after the day of travel on Friday, the team will have to get up for a shorter-than-usual 7 a.m. practice on Saturday morning, adding, "These are all things that are going to be a challenge to our preparation."
Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.
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