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Basketball preview: Men on the road, women back in Alumni

Bulls basketball teams look to make final push before MAC Tournament

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Women’s Basketball (14-9, 7-5 Mid-American Conference)

Winners of five of their last six games, the women’s basketball team is coming off a 54-44 victory over MAC West leader Western Michigan (16-8, 9-4 MAC) on Saturday at University Arena.

Now, the Bulls hope to avoid being upset by Kent State (4-19, 2-10) on Wednesday. Bulls head coach Felisha Legette-Jack is doing her best to keep the team from over-looking the Golden Flashes.

“We respect all and fear none,” Legette-Jack said. “We don’t put Akron over Kent State because they have a better record. Kent State just won against North Illinois and played Akron close. They just couldn’t finish. We can’t allow them to finish when they come play us, either.”

Despite the 4-19 record, Legette-Jack respects the talent on the Kent State roster.

“They have a great shooter on their team in Larissa Lurken,” Legette-Jack said. “She can really shoot it out the gym, probably one of the best shooters in the Mid-American Conference. They also have a forward, CiCi Shannon, who can rebound and run the floor like a deer. We have to put more than one person on her.”

The Bulls have to worry about the battle on the glass as they enter their matchup against the Golden Flashes. The Bulls are currently ranked first in rebounding offense in the conference with 42.9 per game.

On the other side, Kent State is first in the conference in rebounding defense (34 per game) and offensive rebound percentage (37 percent).

Coach Legette-Jack said this is something the Bulls can handle.

“They out rebounded us twice last year,” Jack said. “We’re more concerned with the energy they put into rebounding the ball. It’s impressive to watch. We have to do a better job of not rebounding, but boxing out, getting in position, and letting the ball fall to us.”

The Bulls will rely on senior forward Kristen Sharkey to help them both offensively and defensively. This past week, Sharkey was named Big 4 Player of the Week, and last week, she won the MAC Player of the Week award. Over the last six games, Sharkey has averaged 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

“I can speak for Sharkey when I say that the accolades don’t matter,” Jack said. “She’s more interested in putting a banner in the rafters, being able to say that she did something amazing before she left UB. That’s the main focus for her now.”

Sharkey’s play allows coach Jack to play freshman point guard Stephanie Reid, and the results have been positive. After not playing earlier in the season, Reid has emerged as a solution to the point guard position, averaging 3.4 assists per game and a 1.4 assists-to-turnover ratio in her first eight starts of her career.

“Reid is such a heady point guard,” Legette-Jack said. “Smart kid, knows how to manage spacing, get the ball to players where they want to score, need to score. She’s just knows how to manage a basketball game. She’s a true point guard and we’re very blessed to have her on our team.”

The Bulls and Golden Flashes are tied in the season series, winning five games apiece, dating back to the 2009-10 season. But the Bulls have won their last four matchups against Kent State, most recently, a 64-51 victory on March 8, 2014 at home.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Alumni Arena.

Men’s Basketball (15-9, 6-6 Mid-American Conference)

After a three-game winning streak, the Bulls have hit a snag in the middle of MAC play, losing three of the last games by a total of 10 points. The losses have dropped Buffalo into fourth place in the MAC East and sixth in the MAC overall.

With a trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan on Wednesday, the Bulls are looking to snap the losing streak against Eastern Michigan (16-9, 5-7 MAC).

On Saturday, the Bulls allowed 43 points in the second half, falling to Western Michigan 75-74 in the final seconds after holding a 13-point lead in the first half. Senior forward Xavier Ford had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but the shot was just short as the Bulls dropped to 6-6 in conference play.

One of the more subtle changes made in the game was the starting lineup change of junior guard/forward Rodell Wigginton into the lineup for freshman guard Lamonte Bearden. Wigginton scored six points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists in his first start of the season, while Bearden had six points and four rebounds off the bench. It is unclear if Wigginton or Bearden will start on Wednesday.

The Bulls enter the game with the third best offense in the conference, thanks to junior forward Justin Moss and sophomore forward Shannon Evans – who are ranked first and sixth in scoring in the MAC, respectively.

The combination of Moss and Evans has been the team’s main source for offense, but the team has a whole has improved on the offensive end. After a minor slump, junior guard Jarryn Skeete has shot over 50 percent from three over the last two games. Senior forward Xavier Ford has three double-digit scoring games over his last five.

On the other side, the Eagles are third in the conference in points allowed (61.6 points per game), field goal percentage allowed (36.6 percent allowed) and steals per game (9 per game). The Eagles also rank second in three-point percentage allowed (30.3 percent allowed) and blocked shots (4.8 per game).

Coach Hurley, while praising their defense, believes the Bulls should be able to produce offensively in their Wednesday matchup.

Over the last four games, the Bulls have allowed 87.5 points per game - a significant increase from the average of 69 points allowed for the season.

And it won’t get any easier for the team. Eastern Michigan’s Raven Lee, the second leading scorer in the MAC at 16.4 points per game.

This is the only matchup of the season between Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Dating back to the 2009-10 season, the Bulls are just 2-4 in their matchups against Eastern Michigan. Their last matchup was a 69-64 loss on March 13, 2014 in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament.

The last time they played in the Convocation Center, the Bulls lost 65-46 on Feb. 6, 2013.

The game is set to tipoff at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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