Despite a loss to the Lovell Bulldogs last Friday, the Buffs remained unfazed in their match against the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies. Fortunate for the Buffs, a close game forced into overtime by a fourth-quarter Buffs rally gave the team their first conference win of the season.
While the Buffs were initially able to match the pace of the game, the Bulldogs ultimately left them in the dust. The tie they maintained during the first quarter was eroded in the second and blown out during the third and fourth, costing the Buffs the match, 36 – 59.
“We started out okay,” Coach Nolan Tracy said, “but our poor shooting started affecting everything else we did.”
The Buffs are currently shooting less than 40 percent from the floor; in their game against the Bulldogs, they shot a dismal 24 percent — far-below their season average. Tracy hopes to work on improving that in the coming weeks.
To further complicate things, the Buffs could not effectively guard against the Bulldogs squad or handle the ball. They gave up 26 turnovers during the course of the game and were unable to effectively attack the rim. By the end of the second half, the Buffs were outscored 13 – 31.
Tracy has set three goals for the Buffs: keep their opponents in the low 50’s or less, shoot 40 percent from the field and have 15 or fewer turnovers. According to Tracy, the Buffs were “not even close” to meeting those goals.
“It was a rough game for us,” Tracy said. “We had the trifecta — we couldn’t guard, shoot or take care of the ball. We’re not going to win many games with numbers like that”
Despite their rocky performance, Tracy maintains that the team “will be much better” the next time they face the Bulldogs.
A strong team effort last Saturday snapped the Buffs out of a four-game losing streak and propelled them to their first conference victory. The tense 61 – 52 overtime finish over Rocky Mountain gave the Buffs much-needed momentum as they head into tough conference play.
“We played much better than we did in Lovell,” Tracy said. “[and] were closer to meeting our team goals.”
Their victory was true a team effort — all 8 players who had time on the court contributed to the team’s scoring drives. Together, the Buffs shot 39 percent from the field, allowed few turnovers and kept Grizzlies scoring low.
According to Tracy, their performance helped seal the game for the Buffs.
“All 8 guys made major contributions at critical times of the game — it was a true team win.”
Tracy said Cade Dooley had his best overall game of the season, scoring eight points for the Buffs during the second half until fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Despite sustaining a hip pointer injury in the first quarter, Clancy Stoffers persevered until he was substituted out in the fourth quarter. Tracy described his performance as gutsy, saying he “did everything he could to help his teammates.”
A late 3-pointer by Dawson Forcella combined with a “critical” appearance at the free-throw line by Elias Ewen gave the Buffs the bump they needed to force the overtime appearance.
The Buffs were able to eclipse the Grizzlies in scoring, routing them 14 – 5. Keeping their fouls in check, the team drew drawing seven key appearances at the free-throw line while only ceding three to their opponent. Their seven appearances at the line gave the Buffs an additional 10 points, trumping the Grizzlies’ three.
Their opponent’s fate was sealed after Riley Hill and Hayden Howe each sank a field goal, cushioning the Buffs’ lead.
“Cowley is a really tough place to play and win,” Tracy said, “so I was really proud of the boys and their effort.”
The Buffs continue their conference play this week, traveling Shoshoni Friday, Jan. 27. They will take the court Saturday afternoon against Riverside in Basin.