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Women’s basketball falls to West Virginia in WNIT

Three-point shooting too much as Buffalo’s season ends in WNIT first round

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By the end of the first half of the women’s basketball team’s first-ever Women’s National Invitational (WNIT) tournament game, West Virginia had connected on nearly triple the amount of 3-pointers than Buffalo made the entire game.

It was enough to hand the Bulls (19-13, 11-7 Mid-American Conference) a season-ending 84-61 loss.

West Virginia (19-14, 7-11 Big 12) defeated Buffalo 84-61 Thursday in Morgantown, West Virginia. The Mountaineers led the entire game, due in part to an early 10-0 run and 53 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack reflected on the season after the loss.

“That West Virginia team is special, but our team is special too,” Legette-Jack said. “This the third time I have to grow a team. Being able to grow with these young ladies is great. Love the character and we’re growing in the classroom. The basketball is going to continue to grow.”

West Virginia scored the first ten points of the game and led 21-10 by the first media timeout. The Mountaineers went 8 for 13 from three in the first half and their size advantage over Buffalo allowed them to shoot over Buffalo’s defense. West Virginia got 18 second chance points off of 20 offensive rebounds.

“Their shooting was excellent and we didn’t expect it,” Legette-Jack said. “Our kids got to the spots on time, but when you’re as small as we are and you can see over us, it’s easier to get shots off. Credit to them for getting those shots to fall.”

The Bulls’ offense didn’t fare much better. West Virginia’s length bothered the Bulls at the rim and Buffalo only attempted five shots from beyond the arc in the first half. Buffalo’s top season-leading scorers, senior forward Kristen Sharkey and junior guard Mackenzie Loesing, combined to shoot just 5 of 23 from the floor in the game.

In her final game as a Bull, Sharkey finished with nine points and five rebounds, while Loesing finished with just five points and three rebounds.

Buffalo trailed 50-28 at halftime, and was outscored just 34-33 in the second half. The Bulls’ zone defense held West Virginia to just 35 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.

Sophomore guard Joanna Smith finished with a double-double Thursday, as she scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. In defeat, Smith said that her success was due to “playing her own game.”

“I stepped up when the team needed me,” Smith said. “When we needed a bucket, I made sure to go get it. I noticed some spots in their defense, allowing me to get some easier baskets in the second half and I went for it.”

Along with Smith’s performance, freshman guard Stephanie Reid finished with 11 points and two rebounds. Senior center Christa Baccas was held scoreless and grabbed just one rebound in her final game.

Smith said the loss of Baccas and Sharkey will be tough, but the combination of the returning talent, plus incoming recruits, could equal a special season for the Bulls next year.

“Losing Baccas and Sharkey inside will be tough but we have a ton of talent coming back,” Smith said. “We have a nice recruiting class coming in and we have so many players with experience coming back. We should be able to continue making history for the program.”

Quentin Haynes in the sports desk editor. He can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com


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