Bulls capture first win of season
Buffalo comes alive after slow start to best West Virginia Wesleyan
West Virginia Wesleyan hit four 3-pointers in the game's first nine minutes and held a 20-17 lead over Buffalo. Then Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley received the results he has been expecting all season.
The Bulls allowed the Division II Bobcats only one field goal over the final 10:38 of the first half and finished the opening 20 minutes on a 23-7 run. They prevailed over the Bobcats (1-2), 80-60, and Hurley got his first win as a head coach.
"We did a good job of creating turnovers in the first half," Hurley said. "We pressured them and it gives us a good chance to get out in transition."
Hurley said he was glad to get his first win but it was something for him to get out of the way - he'd much rather be talking about his players after the game. On Saturday, in the team's home opener, he had quite a bit to talk about.
The Bulls (1-2) were aggressive on both ends of the floor - rebounding, forcing turnovers, getting fast-break points and attacking the rim - a style Hurley has preached since he signed on as head coach in March.
Senior forward Javon McCrea capped off a dominant week, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds after posting a 31-14 line in a loss to Niagara on Wednesday.
But Buffalo didn't rely on the scoring of McCrea to get past Wesleyan. After having shot under 38 percent in their first two games of the season, the offense finally clicked.
The Bulls shot 53.6 percent from the field, five players finished in double-digits and they outscored Wesleyan 44-14 in the paint.
"It's a big improvement," Hurley said. "It was a little bit of a surprise that our numbers were what they were in those first two games. I think that that's going to continue to improve."
Junior forward Xavier Ford - who was one of Buffalo's most highly touted recruits three years ago - appears to have finally found his role in a new offensive system. Ford provided a spark off the bench once again and was all over the floor, shooting efficiently, diving for loose balls and scrapping for rebounds - qualities coaches expect from their sixth man.
He scored 14 points - two short of his career high - in 19 minutes and has cemented himself as Hurley's go-to guy off the bench.
"You reflect and look at yourself in the mirror, and during the summer I put a lot of preparation in to helping my team," Ford said.
Hurley said Ford is a matchup problem for the opposition because of his versatility and athleticism, especially when the Bulls are able to get out in transition.
In his first game at Alumni Arena, senior guard Josh Freelove continued his smooth shooting touch. Freelove finished with 13 points and has scored in double digits in all three games for the Bulls.
While senior guard Jarod Oldham and freshman guard Shannon Evans wreak havoc defensively, Freelove has excelled as the offense's second option behind McCrea.
"Josh has a lot of experience. He's a guy that I really trust and can create his own shot," Hurley said of the Alabama State transfer. "He thrives in an open game where he can get out in the open court. If we're getting turnovers and stops and rebounding the ball, then his effectiveness is going to go up."
The Bulls scored 24 points off of 19 forced turnovers and finished with 10 fast-break points.
Junior forward Will Regan found his rhythm offensively, scoring 11 points in just 16 minutes, and Oldham chipped in 11 points and six assists.
The Bulls' next three games are at home in Alumni Arena. Nov. 26, they'll face Robert Morris (2-1). Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.