Searching for answers
Offensively challenged Bulls travel to Olean to take on rival
Leading scorer Chris Johnson (23) and the Bonnie faithful look to welcome the Bulls in a Big Four tilt Saturday night. The Bulls haven't beaten St. Bonaventure since the 1996-97 season. Courtesy of Bonaventure Athletics
After only scoring 39 points Wednesday night - the lowest offensive output in nearly 10 years - the men's basketball team will try to awaken from its recent slumber as the team takes on a tough foe in St. Bonaventure (3-2).
Coming off a game in which Temple (4-0) contained Buffalo (2-6) by limiting them to 32 percent shooting, the Bulls are shaking off that performance as a case where everything just went wrong.
"What I've said all along is that we've done it [scoring] in spurts, but we haven't sustained it," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "We're getting open shots, and last night looked really bad because we had the ball about six or seven times in the paint with no apparent defender, and they rake it out of our hands at the last second. It's sustaining good ball movement, good rhythm and good passing."
The rough start in most cases could break the will of most teams - especially ones that aren't used to losing - as is the case with this current group of players. But this unit is a different one. They're keeping their heads up and learning from their mistakes they made in each game.
"We can't lose the spirit now," said junior guard Corey Raley-Ross. "The best thing about it is that it's early, so we can see our mistakes now and not make them again later. We haven't given up hope, we feel like we are getting better day in and day out. We're taking it a game at a time."
Despite the struggles, this is a team that won't make any drastic changes. Consistency is key, according to Witherspoon.
"We always try to look at what we're doing to see if we can enhance it," Witherspoon said. "So we are looking at different wrinkles here and there. We are not panicking to the point where we gotta scratch everything and start all over. We are trying to get them to get better in what we ask them to do and to grow from that point."
The Bulls travel to Olean, N.Y. to take on the Bonnies - who come off a tough road loss, a 64-69 defeat to Mid-American Conference rival Ohio (6-0). Three seniors fill the majority of the scoring load - Chris Johnson, Demitrius Conger and Eric Mosley. The trio contributes nearly 60 percent of the team's 70 points per game.
Johnson, the team's leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, is stepping in as a full-time starter for the first time - effectively replacing the scoring load that left with the departure of former player Andrew Nicholson, who left for the Orlando Magic.
The swingman is flanked on the post by Conger, who was the second-leading scorer last year. A model of consistency on the offensive end, he is second in scoring at 13.6 points per game and has scored in double digits in every single contest. He is also the team's leading rebounder at seven a game and is second on the team in assists with nearly three per game.
Mosley is the super sub coming off the bench for the St. Bonaventure. When he is in the game, the diminutive guard tries to light it up from beyond the arc. He averages three 3-pointers per game in only 15 minutes of action and averages 60 percent from beyond the perimeter. In the last game versus Ohio, he played a season-high 26 minutes, and he scored 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting 3-pointers.
Stopping the trio will be a tough task for the Buffalo defense.
"With our schedule, we're going to have this for the duration of the season," Witherspoon said. "We are going to have teams that are really good. The good news is that it gives us an opportunity to learn. We aren't going to have a false impression of what type of team we are."
Despite the fact that it's a Big Four matchup, the rivalry isn't the primary focus for a team trying to prepare itself for the rigors of MAC play.
"We just keep to ourselves," Raley-Ross said. "There's a few guys [here] that know the guys over there, but we don't even look at that as a rivalry. We will let the media hype that up. We just got to play our game."
The Bulls will try to beat the Bonnies for the first time in a few years on Saturday at the Reilly Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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