Watson returns, Bulls seek revenge
Bulls look to knock off Owls at home
The Bulls will have a tough test against Scootie Randall of Temple in Wednesday's game. The dynamic forward leads the team in scoring at 21.7 points per game. Courtesy of Mitchell Leff
After getting back on the winning side of things with a 76-57 victory against Division II Mansfield University (1-1), the men's basketball team looks to take on what head coach Reggie Witherspoon calls "the best team they're going to play so far." And the Bulls will do it with the return of a much-needed scoring weapon.
The Bulls (2-5) will play host to Temple (3-0) in the main event of a doubleheader at Alumni Arena on Wednesday.
This is a team that is learning on the fly, hence the struggles early in the season.
"We did take some losses early in the season, but it was something that we needed to go through," said senior guard Tony Watson. "We had a lot of new guys, and we had to see that we could do better, so going through those rough times just makes it that much sweeter."
Witherspoon also sees the improvements, especially in one key area.
"We're getting better, just in small increments," Witherspoon said. "Statistically, we've outrebounded all of our opponents, so the answer is rebounding.The most positive thing is that we are getting better, and we seem to be getting healthier."
Buffalo will get back its best shooter and one of its veteran leaders in Watson. After he missed four games with an ankle injury, the Bulls are in need of their best shooter. He is shooting 57 percent from downtown in the three games that he's played.
"Everything's fine," Watson said. "An ankle injury is an ankle injury. I haven't played a game 100 percent since I've been in college. It's something I'm used to. But I'm back. I'm ready."
Even though they have actually shot better in his absence - shooting 35 percent from three-point range and 34 percent total - the shooting has been inconsistent, according to Witherspoon, a product of the team's youth and relative unfamiliarity with each other due to game experience.
"The key is that [former players] Dave [Barnett] and Zack [Filzen] had gotten themselves to the point where they can anticipate what was going to happen," Witherspoon said. "And a lot of that is the passes that lead to the shot. We're coming off a year in which we were ninth in the nation in assists, and that helps your shooting. And right now we've struggled with that. Our guys have to learn that, and as the passing improves, I think our shooting will be more consistent."
Buffalo is taking on an impressive Owls team that has continued to improve off last year's 24-8 record, starting off with three straight victories. Last year in Philadelphia, the Bulls lost what was a heartbreaker, falling victim to an Anthony Lee tip-in with seconds remaining in overtime, leading to an 87-85 defeat. Although the Owls lost four seniors due to graduation, they are led by two veterans in Scootie Randall and Khalif Wyatt.
Randall, who is averaging 21.7 points per game along with eight rebounds and three assists, is a multitalented forward who isn't afraid to play on the wings or down in the low post offensively.
Wyatt is the team leader in assists per game, at 6.3, and is the team's second-leading scorer at 14.7 points per game. At 6-foot-4, he uses his size to take advantage of any mismatches and is the team's dominant ball handler. Stopping these two players will be a big test early on in the season for the young Bulls.
"We might play a little zone and a little man-to-man [defense] here and there," Watson said. "We just have to make it uncomfortable for all of them, whether it's Randall or Wyatt. It is a challenge for all of us, and we all will all have a hand in guarding the perimeter. It's more of a team effort than an individual effort."
The key in this game, according to Witherspoon, is to "attack them down low," using the squad's big-man tandem of McCrea, sophomore Will Regan and junior Cameron Downing.
All in all, the team hopes to garner a signature non-conference win under its belt.
"It will be a huge win," Watson said. "Temple is a good team, and we're on our way to being a great team as well. Having a win like this under our belt, and the guys knowing that we [are] as [good] Temple, or maybe better, then that will be tremendous for team morale and team chemistry."
Tipoff for the "White-out" game, in which students are encouraged to wear white, is on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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