UB women’s basketball pulls off big upset of Ohio
Bulls snap five-game losing streak, Legette-Jack earns 200th career victory
One team on a 12 game-winning streak, another on a five-game losing streak.
It seemed as if the slumping Buffalo women’s basketball team had little chance against Ohio, the top team in the Mid-American Conference.
But the Bulls (11-9, 3-6 Mid-American Conference) have had moments of defensive greatness this season, and they had enough Wednesday night to pull off the upset.
Buffalo played a sound defensive game, defeating the Bobcats (17-4, 9-1 MAC) 51-43 at Alumni Arena Wednesday night. The 43 points were the fewest points the Bobcats have scored in a game all season. The game was also a joyous occasion for head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, as the win was her 200th career victory as a head coach.
“When you reach milestones, there’s only one reason behind that and that’s the person I believe in the most, the person who I acknowledge on a daily basis is my God,” Jack said. “We kept getting better, we kept defending a little bit better, we gave up some little things, but we locked into defense and we finally understand that if we play together and stick together, good things can happen.”
Averaging 71.5 points per game heading into Wednesday’s contest, the Bobcats were eager to go up against a Buffalo defense that had allowed 74.8 points in their last five. That changed about 12 minutes into the game when the Bobcats went into the second quarter with just eight points on the board.
The Bulls received great defense from their perimeter players. Junior guard Joanna Smith led the Bulls with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists in an ironman-like 39 minutes played. But it was her defense that she was most proud of – forcing two steals of her own and forced Ohio’s starting backcourt of Lexie Baldwin and Quiera Lampkins to 11 turnovers.
“My mindset coming into this game was not on the offensive side of the ball but more on the defensive side,” Smith said. “Watching film I saw a lot of mishaps with me on defense, so this game I knew I had to lock in not only offensively but defensively. I think that showed by how we played defense tonight."
In total, the Bulls held the Bobcats to a season-low 43 points and allowed just 27 percent shooting from the floor. Jack credits the play of sophomore forwards Mariah Suchan and Courtney Wilkins for their play in the interior.
The Bulls continue to tinker with their lineup and rotation. Wednesday was the second consecutive start for freshman guard Gabi Bade and she finished with three points, six rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. Jack mentioned that the team will continue to tinker and work with the lineup in rotation.
Sophomore guard Stephanie Reid finished with seven points and four assists, while sophomore forward Katherine Ups finished with four points and 10 rebounds. Wilkins finished with six points, going 2-for-3 from three-point range, five rebounds and two steals, however, the play of senior guard Karin Moss was vital in the team’s victory.
Moss finished with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. She took over in third quarter, scoring six of her 11 points and extending Buffalo’s lead late in the period. The combination of Moss and Smith on the perimeter gave the Bobcat guards fits all night.
“I never really look at the score. Coach Jack always tells us to focus on the defense, if you lock in and you all play together, the score doesn't matter,” Moss said.
After stressing to her team to play defense and to be accountable for every move they make on the floor, the Bulls allowed just 43 points and Legette-Jack praised the defense, citing that the specific scheme the Bulls played on Wednesday helped teams like Auburn in years’ past make it to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Legette-Jack is hoping for the same success with her team.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Bulls, facing a Ball State team (15-5, 7-2 MAC) that is currently second in the MAC West. Buffalo enters their home game against the Cardinals as the team with the worst record, but in the MAC, Legette-Jack isn’t too concerned.
“We are not a team reflective of our record in the MAC,” Legette-Jack said, “We can compete with the best teams in the MAC, and just moving forward I think this is going to give us confidence to get a better record.”
Buffalo will look to keep momentum going as they host Ball State on Saturday at Alumni Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Romulo Romero is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.