UB men’s basketball (0-1, 0-0 MAC) fell to the Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Knights (1-0, 0-0 NEC) in the season opener at Alumni Arena Monday night, 92-86. The game was former Villanova assistant coach George Halcovage III’s first game as UB head coach.
“We just look at how we got to build consistent habits,” Halcovage said at the postgame press conference, after he was asked what he learned in his first game as a head coach. “In this game we talked about getting back on transition defense, we had too many lapses on that front.”
The struggle on defense was a major culprit in the Bulls’ loss on Monday night. UB was unable to prevent FDU from pushing the tempo of the game, as the Bulls gave up 28 fast-break points and committed 13 turnovers. FDU scored 18 points off turnovers alone.
Another problem for the Bulls was foul trouble, as they sent their opponent to the line 36 times. UB shot 20 free throws, only missing one of 14 attempts in the second half for 92.9%, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the gap in foul shots.
UB only led the Knights one time during the entire game, and the lead only lasted 35 seconds.
“The biggest thing that hurt us was we weren’t getting back and converting,” senior forward Jonnivius Smith said in the postgame press conference. He was one point and one rebound away from logging a 20-20 game, finishing with 19 points and rebounds each. Smith also grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, more than FDU’s entire team, which had nine.
FDU’s sophomore forward Jo’el Emanuel was the biggest threat to the Bulls, as he ended the first half scoring 18 points and finished the game with 24, smashing his previous career-high of 9.
The game’s top scorer was UB senior forward Isaiah Adams, who led the team with 28 points and eight rebounds. The Bulls had two other starters scoring in double digits on Monday night, with sophomore guard Shawn Fulcher scoring 14 points and senior forward Sy Chatman putting up 10 points.
Despite the loss, the Bulls remained focused on the goal of improving on last year’s 15-17 (9-9 MAC) record, which earned the No. 6 seed in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament and finished with a first-round exit.
“We want to be the best team we can,” Halcovage said. “Hopefully MAC champions at some point.”
UB hosts South Alabama (0-1, 0-0 SBC) for the next game on Saturday, Nov. 11, which is part of the MAC-Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Challenge. Tip off is at 2 p.m, and the game can be streamed on ESPN+.
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Ricardo Castillo is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com