Bulls Bullied by Jackrabbits
South Dakota State dominates as Buffalo loses its second straight game
Zach Filzen (5) dribbles past a South Dakota State defender in the Bulls’ 86-65 Bracketbuster loss. Courtesy of Ty Carlson
The men's basketball team took a break from the grind that is the Mid-American Conference schedule on Saturday. It expected to dominate down low against an out of conference opponent.
That script was flipped in Brookings, SD as the Bulls (16-8, 9-3 MAC) looked ill prepared, and were beat up on the low block. South Dakota State (22-7, 13-3 Summit League) was able to run away from the Bulls, winning 86-65 in the SEARS BracketBusters matchup at Frost Arena.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon was very frank about the Bulls' effort.
"South Dakota State took us to the woodshed today," Witherspoon said. "We weren't physical at all. We weren't aggressive enough."
The lack of aggression was on full display, as the smaller Jackrabbits were able to push the Bulls around on the boards. After one half of play, it was the Jackrabbits that looked like the better rebounding team, as they held a plus-nine advantage.
Buffalo closed the gap, but ended the game outrebounded for the first time in the last 11 games, losing the battle 34-31. But it was not an acceptable performance in the eyes of Witherspoon, as the third ranked rebounding team in the country was out classed on the glass.
"They were more physical. They did a good job blocking out [on rebounds]," Witherspoon said. "We didn't do a good enough job of getting around them and getting to the glass. We just didn't establish ourselves enough on the glass at all."
The Bulls' big men, especially sophomore forward Javon McCrea, were supposed to dominate this game. Instead he had a subpar game, scoring only eight points and grabbing five rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time before fouling out.
Senior forward Mitchell Watt had a slightly better game, leading the Bulls in scoring with 15 points and grabbing eight boards, but was unable to register a blocked shot for the second straight game. The Jackrabbits had no trouble getting to the rim, as they were unafraid of the bigger Bulls' forwards.
South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters put on a show for the national audience, scoring 22 points. He put on a shooting clinic, scoring on a myriad of mid-range jumpers, floaters over the arms of Buffalo defenders, and reverse layups.
When the team needed a big rebound, or to make the extra pass, Wolters came through, as he added eight rebounds and six assists. Many of those assists were to fellow guard Griffan Callahan, as the senior added 22 points of his own on 6-of-10 shooting.
As a team, the Jackrabbits shot lights-out, making nearly 50 percent of their shots throughout the game, the highest mark the Bulls have allowed since their Dec. 20 game at BYU. They were also able to force the Bulls into terrible fouls, as they were able to go to the line 31 times.
"They did a good job of spreading us out and doing what they do best," Witherspoon said. "We didn't take them to the glass, pound it inside and do what we do best. In the end, when that happens, it's bad for Buffalo."
In the end, this is a game that doesn't have a negative impact on Buffalo's chances to win the MAC, a point that was reflected on by Witherspoon.
"We don't want to put this one behind us to the point that we forget about it," Whitherspoon said. "We just have to focus on our next opponent which is Ohio and we need a good effort to be successful against them."
Buffalo will play three of their final four games at home, starting with the Ohio Bobcats (21-6, 8-4 MAC), who previously defeated the Bulls 60-52 in Athens, Ohio on Jan. 11. Tipoff for the game on Wednesday is slated for 7 p.m.
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