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UB women’s basketball reflects on historic season

Bulls earned a spot in the postseason for the second time in program history

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For the second consecutive year, the women’s basketball team finished its season fourth in the Mid-American Conference.

But instead of ending the season in the MAC Tournament like they did last year, the Bulls ended their year in the postseason for the second time in program history.

On Monday, the school held a “Bulls Basketball Celebration” to honor the men and women’s program for their success this season. Both teams made it to the postseason, with the women making an appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) for the first time in program history.

Athletic Director Danny White took the stage to laud both teams for their success during the regular season.

“This year, the women’s basketball team had their first 19-win season since the 2000-01 season, first back-to-back winning seasons since 1999-00, 2000-01,” White said. “Second time in school history we made the Mid-American Conference semifinals and the first time since 2000-01 that we swept Big Four competition.”

As Bulls head coach Felisha Legette-Jack took the podium, she said that most of the team’s success was due to the “hunger” despite player situations surrounding the roster. Forward Rachael Gregory transferred in the middle of the season.

“If I had to describe our team in one word, I would say ‘hungry,’” Legette-Jack said. “We lost players midseason, had players quit and I would walk into the locker room and the girls would say, ‘What’s next, coach?’ It was a great season because our players made sure to block out all distractions when they stepped out on the court.”

The Bulls will bring in at least three recruits and return five of their top seven players entering next season.

One player that helped the Bulls in the second half of the season was freshman guard Stephanie Reid. As a point guard, Reid came in and immediately took over the starting point guard spot. Her calm demeanor and quick adaptation into the offense made her a starter for her time with the team this season and is projected to assume the starting role next season as well.

With the program’s success, Legette-Jack said that she hopes that the exposure can open more doors for the team and hopes Buffalo will be thought of for more than just “cold weather.”

“People instantly assume cold weather and you won’t come,” Legette-Jack said. “But when they do come and see the beautiful arena, the academics standards and the people already here. Once they come here, it’s a wrap.”

The Bulls finished the season with a 19-13 record and an 11-7 record in the conference. They lost in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament to Ohio and failed to capture an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Two days later, the Bulls were rewarded with a bid into the WNIT.

Senior forward Kristen Sharkey said that the opportunity to play in the WNIT was great for her final season, as well as the program moving forward.

“I was disappointed when we lost to Ohio because I knew the NCAA tournament dream was gone,” Sharkey said. “However, when we got the call a few days later that we got the chance to go to West Virginia and play in the school’s first WNIT, I was ready. This is what I wanted to do at the University at Buffalo, play in the postseason. I’m glad I got to do it in my final year.”

Sharkey ended her career in the loss to West Virginia in the WNIT. She finished her Bulls career with two postseason tournament appearances. She also finished No. 8 in program history with 1,264 points and No. 10 in rebounds with 759.

After the event, Legette-Jack said, “you can’t replace a player like Kristen Sharkey.”

Junior guard Mackenzie Loesing will enter next season as one of the few seniors on Legette-Jack’s roster. After the loss to Ohio in the MAC Tournament, Legette-Jack revealed that Loesing was playing most of the season with torn ligaments in her foot.

Entering next season healthy, Loesing said going “one step further” is the goal for the returning players.

“We saw how tough it is now,” Loesing said. “What [senior forward Christa Baccas] and Sharkey did for us was important. Now, there’s precedence for this team and this program moving forward. We want to make the postseason next year, we want to make it to the NCAA Tournament.”

Legette-Jack was also inspired by men’s head coach Bobby Hurley and the team that made the national tournament this season.

“Watching Hurley take his team to the NCAA’s, we want to do the same,” Legette-Jack said. “I believe in our players returning and some of the new recruits coming in. We were close this year, I think we can get to that point and even further next season.”

Quentin Haynes is a sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com


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