NORTH MIAMI -- Butch Estes was ready to pull out the chalkboard as soon as it was over.
"The last five minutes we did show our colors, and we rose to the occasion," Barry University's first-year coach said after the Bucs beat Johnson & Wales, 83-73, Friday night in the Wildcat Center.
"But for the first 35 minutes, we made some good plays, but we had a lot of breakdowns, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. You got to give them a little credit. They had nice offensive patterns, but our failure to execute our principles in a proper way led them to get a lot of wide open threes, and they hit 'em all."
Actually the Wildcats, who won their previous two games, shot eight of 18 for 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, but it took a spirited effort down the stretch for the Bucs to win their season opener on the road in front of 1,017 fans in a bottle-neck environment where sound decibels made texting the only socializing option.
"We went in there with a lot of confidence," Bucs junior guard Juan Ferrales said after scoring 20 points in his Barry debut. "They were just jacked up to play us. They didn't miss."
The Wildcats (2-1) shot 59.6 percent from the floor, while the Buccaneers hit 55.8 percent. Barry sank 19 of 23 free throws for 82.6 percent. Johnson & Wales missed 10 of its 13 free throws, including eight in the second half, to finish at 23.1 percent from the line.
In a game that witnessed 18 lead changes and 15 deadlocks, Barry broke a 67-67 tie when Magne Fivelstad scored around the five-minute mark. Ferrales scored in transition, drew a foul and sank the free throw to give Barry a five-point lead. Ferrales, a transfer from Florida International, knocked down a three from the top of the key with 2:53 remaining to extend the lead to seven.
"The big shot, the three, really helped," Estes said. "Once we got the four-point lead, it was pretty good."
Johnson & Wales cut it to four after Ricardo Suarez hit a jumper and Mack Scott hit one of two free throws with 1:18 remaining. But Fivelstad, who went 8 for 10 from the line, sank a pair from the stripe with 49.8 seconds to go after Deric Hill scored on a driving lay-in off-glass to all but seal the deal in securing an eight-point lead.
"When you're on the road in this environment, and you let the home team get hot, I'm really surprised and pleased that we were able to pull it out," Estes said. "I really have a lot of respect for their program and their coach, coach (David) Graham. They have this beautiful gym, and it is a good rivalry between the two schools that are really close. There's a lot of respect and good sportsmanship, so it's certainly something we've got to consider. But it is tough. As we grow and we get better, hopefully we'll be able to sustain. But we have a lot of work to do."
All five of Barry's starters reached double figures, and the Buccaneers outrebounded the Wildcats, 31-23.
"That's what we preach is balance and sharing the ball," Estes said, a look of concern transforming into a quick smile over the thought of his starting cast's production.
JWU's Myles Smith matched Ferrales with 20 points, and Frank Bennett had 14 for the Wildcats, who outscored the Bucs, 18-12, in bench production. Fivelstad finished with 14 points and five rebounds. Hill had 12 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals, but committed eight turnovers.
Yunio Barrueta had 14 points on five of 10 shooting, and Savad Garner 11 points on five of nine for Barry, which outscored Johnson & Wales, 22-11, in second chance points. Ferrales was seven of 11 from the floor, including three of four from beyond the arc.
"I told our guys ... 'Those last six minutes are ours,'" Ferrales said, genuinely deflecting any thoughts of a rescue effort. "Honestly, I was just happy to walk out of there with a win. This team (of ours) doesn't get used to losing well. I'd rather win and learn, than lose and learn."
The Buccaneers outscored the Wildcats in the paint, 40-30.
With Barry trailing by one, sophomore center Matt Gamberoni scored on a driving dish-off from Hill in the paint to give the Bucs a one-point lead. After Suarez hit a three, Barry's 6-foot-nine Frenchman scored again to tie it.
"I've got to give a little credit to the guys who came off the bench tonight," Estes said. "They didn't play a lot of minutes, but they were able to give our guys a little bit of rest. We do plan on playing more people in the future as we get better. I wasn't able to get as many people into the game for as long as I wanted tonight. But, again, we sustained when it counted, and it's a great way to start a new era here at Barry.
"Matt did a really good job. If he continues to play like that, he'll certainly see more minutes. Deric Hill really played great down the stretch. I'm sure if you ask Deric, he wasn't pleased much with his performance. Much of the game he saw some opportunities that he thought he could take advantage of, but that was getting us a little bit out of our offense. We're really going to have to go work because I really do want to take advantage of his ability to open the floor up and let him create. But that's something we've got to get a little bit more in sync with."
Not to mention staying awake during all 35 seconds on the shot clock on the defensive end.
"We were allowing them to penetrate the middle of the floor," Estes said. "We've been actually really good at on-ball screens, but tonight we weren't. We were pathetic guarding the ball tonight. We allowed the ball from either side of the floor to be penetrated to the middle. and then they were wide open, kicked to the weak side of the floor for wide-open threes. You just can't do that. We did at times, we finally, finally, finally got 'em to keep it at one side of the floor late in the game, and we got some stops. That really is what, in a tight game, gave us an opportunity to break it open. "
Diagnosing the schemes, breakdowns and executions aside, it was a win the Bucs will take.
"I'm just glad the Barry Bucs are 1-0," Estes said.
So are so many more on the Miami Shores campus.