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UB women’s basketball preview: Bulls look to upset MAC-leading Ohio for second time

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Almost all underdog teams claim they can pull off the upset.

But when it comes to the Buffalo women’s basketball team and Mid-American Conference-leading Ohio (22-4, 14-1 MAC), the Bulls may actually believe it.

They’ve already done it once this season.

The Bulls (14-12, 6-9 MAC) take on Ohio at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio Saturday hoping for a repeat of their 51-43 upset of the Bobcats on Feb. 3. After the Bulls play Ohio, it won’t get an easier. They face the second-best team in the MAC East, Akron (14-12, 8-7 MAC) on Wednesday. The Zips defeated Buffalo 69-61 in Alumni Arena on Jan. 16.

In Buffalo’s victory over Ohio, it held the Bobcats to just 27 percent shooting, including a dismal 5-of-29 performance from three-point range. The Bulls played a well-rounded game as they shot 43 percent from the field, 33 percent from three-point range and held the Bobcats to just eight points in the first quarter.

And if the Bulls get the victory again Saturday, it will come down to defense again, said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

“We want to continue to play our defense,” Legette-Jack said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in a three-year span, but we’re going to respect them by playing good defense, keep them in front of us and we’re going to continue to close out hard and bring both of our defenses.”

Despite allowing just 54.8 points in the month of February, Legette-Jack wants to see more from her team on the defensive side of the ball. In the midst of that period, the Bulls allowed 70 points twice in a three-game span – a far cry from the 59 points Buffalo wants to limit opponents to.

“I want us to get back to the defense we were playing at the beginning of the season,” Legette-Jack said. “We held people to 35, 45 points earlier in the season … If we can keep somebody in front, we should be able to keep people to 59, if nothing else. We had games where we allowed teams to get 70 or more against us. It’s just not who we are.”

The Bulls have tried several different ways to improve on defense. One of those ways was inserting senior guard Karin Moss into the lineup as a defensive sparkplug. Moss’ ability to defend, create plays on the perimeter and force steals has helped the Bulls force turnovers, which often leads to points on the other end.

Another has been using different defensive players. After a three-game absence earlier this month, freshman forward Brittany Morrison has played the perimeter and gotten consistent minutes over the Bulls’ past four games. So has sophomore forward Mariah Suchan, who grabbed four rebounds and two steals in Buffalo’s last game, a 55-52 victory over Bowling Green on Feb. 24.

“We’ve just done a better job with our talking,” Suchan said. “Sometimes, we weren’t talking, weren’t active and didn’t talk much in the season. I think now, we’re a bit more talkative and talking about where we’re supposed to be on the floor. It seems simple, but just talking on defense more has really helped us.”

The offense continues to play well enough for victories, scoring at least 55 points in their last three games. One player mentioned for her performances was freshman guard Gabi Bade. Against Bowling Green, Bade scored six points, nailing two three-point shots to help the Bulls extend their lead. Legette-Jack praised Bade for her shooting and said she’ll eventually be a “good point guard for this program in time.”

As for Bade, she was a bit more critical on her freshman season.

“I’m still learning, I’m still improving,” Bade said. “My freshman year is almost over, but I’ve learned so much from Jack. I’ve learned great concepts on how to play the game and working in practice … it has worked for me so far. I still want to continue to grow, improve on defense.”

Tipoff for Saturday’s game against Ohio is set for 1 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter.


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