UB women’s basketball to take on Kent State in regular season finale
Buffalo enters the game in a four-way tie for fourth place
The week before college basketball’s conference tournaments is a time when most teams can prepare for post-season play.
But that’s not how coach head coach Felisha Legette-Jack sees it.
“We don’t look at the [last] game as our last [of the season],” she said. “It’s part of the season. Most people have four seasons in winter, spring, summer and fall. Well, I have four seasons as well. It’s pre-season, non-conference, conference and post-season.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Bulls (17-11, 10-7 Mid-American Conference) will take on Kent State (5-23, 2-14 MAC) in Kent, Ohio in the final regular season matchup of the 2014-15 season. Buffalo is currently tied with Toledo, Central Michigan and Western Michigan for fourth place in the conference.
One of the main concerns for the Bulls heading into the game is offense. On Wednesday, Buffalo scored 55 or less points in a game for the seventh time this season. Buffalo also ranks dead last in the conference in three-point shooting percentage (.252).
But Legette-Jack said defense is the key to winning the game on Saturday. In Buffalo’s last game against Bowling Green, the team held the Falcons to 47 points, with 22 points in the first half.
Legette-Jack said the defensive intensity on Wednesday was highlighted by sophomore forward Alexus Malone.
“I think Alexus really brought that energy,” Legette-Jack said. “She was guarding two people at one time at a point. Everybody said, ‘look at Lex’ and they followed.”
Malone accumulated 12 rebounds with two steals and one block in 35 minutes played last game.
The Bulls will rely on the defensive play of the forwards. The team ranks first in the conference in blocked shots (four per game). Senior forwards Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas and Malone rank sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, in the conference in rebounding.
But the Bulls will be playing forward Cici Shannon, who ranks second in the MAC with 8.8 rebounds per game and ranks No. 1 in field goal percentage (.534). It showed the last time these two teams matched up. On Feb. 18, Shannon totaled 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and a game-high 10 rebounds while only playing 27 minutes due to foul trouble.
“We can’t guard her by herself,” Legette-Jack said. “She needs a committee guarding her. She’s a special player. She knows her positioning. We don’t have anybody 6-foot-4.”
The Golden Flashes rank second-to-last in both scoring offense (55.4 per game) and defense (65.7 per game) in the conference. Buffalo ranks sixth in the conference in both categories, scoring 64.7 points per game and giving up 61.7 per game.
The Bulls force a conference-leading 11.2 steals per game while the Golden Flashes rank eighth in the conference with six per game.
The Bulls scored 87 points last Saturday in a victory over Akron (21-7, 11-6 MAC). Sophomore guard Joanna Smith scored 20 points that game and followed up with a 17-point performance on Wednesday.
“I love the way she’s playing,” Legette-Jack said. “We knew she had it in her. She’s just a great teammate.”
Saturday’s game marks the final regular season game for Sharkey and Baccas. Sharkey enters the game averaging a team-leading 14.3 points per game while Baccas leads the team – and the conference – in blocked shots (2.3 per game).
“They’re special,” Legette-Jack said. “I hope we have a lot more games to play because I’m not ready for those guys to be out of our life on a daily basis. They are captains that give totally of themselves.”
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Jordan Grossman is the Senior Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com