UB women’s basketball defeats Akron 87-80
Stephanie Reid scores career-best 21 points in victory
The women’s basketball team’s head coach Felisha Legette-Jack called a timeout with less than 15 seconds remaining in Saturday’s game, but had no intention of talking to the team or drawing up a play.
With the Bulls up by seven points, the timeout was used to make a personnel switch. Legette-Jack took out seniors Ayana Bradley, Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas, in front of an emotional home crowd, for the final time at Alumni Arena.
The Bulls (16-11, 9-7 Mid-American Conference) defeated MAC East-leading Akron (20-7, 10-6 MAC) 87-80 for the first time since the 2010-11 season on Senior Day Saturday. It is also the highest scoring output since the team defeated Saint Francis 88-80 on Nov. 18. Buffalo is now just one game behind Akron for second place in the MAC East.
“I think [Buffalo] is one of the best teams in the conference,” Legette-Jack said. “I think some of the things that stopped us from having success hasn’t been our opponents – it’s been ourselves. Our leadership is strong; our foundation is set. I think this is a program on the rise because of our leadership.”
On a day that honored the departing seniors, it was the underclassmen that shined the most. Freshman guard Stephanie Reid finished with a career-high 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting while sophomore guard Joanna Smith scored 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 16 of which came in the first half. The guards were responsible for nearly 50 percent of the team’s total points.
“It makes you smile as a coach,” Legette-Jack said. “The future is bright. The setting is set for future greatness.”
Reid doesn’t take responsibility for her career game – she credits the entire team, especially, the seniors.
“It wouldn’t be possible without the team,” Reid said. “They start the momentum. I got lucky because they gave me the ball and I got to hit the free throws. The seniors have led me here. They’ve been my support network. They’ve been the ones pushing me in the gym every single practice.”
Buffalo led by four with 4:02 left in the first half after leading by as much as eight points one minute prior. The Bulls closed the half out on a 10-4 run to take a 10-point lead going into the half.
The team didn’t slow down entering the second half.
Buffalo jumped out to a 53-35 lead within the first seven minutes of the second half, highlighted by back-to-back steals and buckets from Baccas and sophomore forward Alexus Malone from 15:07 – 13:57. Malone finished shooting 6 of 9 for 17 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Malone was one of four Bulls to score 15 or more points in the contest. It was the first time since Jan. 10 against Miami Ohio where four Bulls reached that total. Legette-Jack said the ball sharing was a big reason for the team’s victory.
“We don’t want the kids that want to be the player of the game every game,” Legette-Jack said. “We want the kids on our team that have the character that stand for the team where they can become the best. We don’t want to have a ceiling on our team. We’re not just trying to grow a basketball team. We’re trying to grow phenomenal women.”
Baccas finished her final game at Alumni Arena with 15 points, six rebounds and a game-high four steals. Baccas was emotional about her last game at home, but a win helped further the process.
“It means a lot,” Baccas said. “The way we played today, we played together. If we played this way for the rest of the season, there’s no showing in how far we can really go. It’s about being consistent and bringing it to the next level.”
Akron’s Sina King, Hannah Plybon and Anita Brown combined for 71 of Akron’s 80 points. Brown led all scorers with 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. Buffalo allowed three other Akron players to score while forcing the Zips to shoot 42.6 percent from the field in the game.
The Bulls have two games remaining before the beginning of the MAC Tournament, which begins on March 11. The Bulls next matchup is on Wednesday, March 4 when they take on Bowling Green (9-18, 2-14 MAC) in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Jordan Grossman is the senior sports editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org