UB women’s basketball off to 6-0 start
Player recognition, chemistry are main factors for Bulls’ perfect start
When the women’s basketball team visited Universal Studios during a road trip to Florida last week, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack planned to spend the day in the amusement park sitting alone and letting her players enjoy themselves.
But she was never alone.
Throughout the day, her players approached her to talk about a wide variety of topics, from school, to life, to basketball.
“As a head coach, you really want to win games and have success to win championships,” Legette-Jack said. “But I can put a lot of money on it when I say every coach would love to have a relationship with their kids. That’s something that’s happening here at Buffalo.”
That kind of chemistry may be part of the reason for the team’s undefeated start to the season. After the trip to Universal Studios, the Bulls (6-0) defeated Central Florida and Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference for it’s best start since the 2000-01 season.
After the departures of top players like Kristen Sharkey, Mackenzie Loesing, Alexus Malone and Christa Baccas on the court, the inexperienced team has defied the expectations and what it means to be a young team.
Most young squads go through a transition period filled with experimenting and question marks. The team isn’t supposed to make a statement at the beginning of the season, let alone rank in the top-5 in the country in scoring defense.
But the Bulls are different. They’ve accepted the adversity.
The success can’t be attributed to just a few players. You’ll never hear Legette-Jack rave about one particular player, no matter how good said player might be – she praises the collective effort of the team. She says it doesn’t matter if you played one minute or 30 minutes.
“It’s all spread out. People can’t zone in on one player,” said junior guard Joanna Smith said. “We have a whole starting five. We can go a full 15. That’s the most surprising thing people don’t know about our roster, but we have a full 15 that can play that’s ready to get after it.”
But it never hurts to have standout players. Smith said she isn’t a standout player, but her performance this season says otherwise.
Smith was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week for her efforts during Buffalo’s perfect 3-0 week. She averaged 19 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in the three wins, including against Central Florida (2-3) and Clemson (1-6).
Sophomore guard Stephanie Reid, who Legette-Jack considers the “floor general,” is also having a breakout year in her first full year with Buffalo. She’s averaging 9.7 points and 5.2 assists per game.
“[Reid] is doing the general work, just running the entire team,” Legette-Jack said. “She stays so poised and so calm, but aggressive at the same time. She’s a kid that doesn’t fear anything. When the ball is in her hand, the entire team is relaxed.”
Katherine Ups is a breakout this season as well. The sophomore guard is averaging 9.7 pointes per game and has scored in double-digits in four of Buffalo’s six games.
The team’s motto this season has been “The Village,” in reference to the saying that it takes an entire village to raise a child – or basketball team. Legette-Jack brought the idea to her team to improve the overall locker room outlook and form more chemistry on and off the court.
And if this past weekend was any indication, “The Village” is slowly coming together.
The team entered Orlando last weekend and took care of Central Florida and Power 5 school in Clemson. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. A transitioning Mid-Major squad shouldn’t have beat the Tigers.
Legette-Jack never thought that way.
“Respect all, fear none,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re not going to look at Clemson as different than UMass as it looks different to Canisius. We think who’s in front of us … We don’t get excited about names and conference. We play the people that are in front of us.”
Buffalo will try to continue its perfect season Thursday when it travels downstate to Long Island to take on Legette-Jack’s former team, Hofstra (5-1), at 7 p.m.
Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.