Bulls advance to MAC tournament final
Buffalo beats Western Michigan in Cleveland
The Bulls beat the Western Michigan Broncos 85-53 Friday afternoon at the Quicken Loans Arena in the semifinals of the MAC tournament.
The guards of Buffalo shined as senior Stephanie Reid, junior Cierra Dillard and junior Autumn Jones scored a combined 40 points. The Bulls (27-4, 16-2 MAC) head to their second MAC tournament final in the past three seasons. Last year, the Bulls lost in the semifinals to the Toledo Rockets (17-14, 8-10 MAC) after winning the tournament the year prior.
“It's unbelievable,” Jones said. “I'm coming from a junior college, so I never would have imagined that a year later, … I'd be right here with the chance to win a championship. So I'm really excited.”
Dillard said she shared the same sentiment at the post-game press conference.
“It hasn't been about winning,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “It has to do with what do you want them to remember you for. … You have to have a sisterhood. You have to have a oneness, a connectedness, and through that I think magic happens.”
The first five minutes saw both teams fire off on offense, with the Bulls starting the game with a six-point run.Western Michigan (18-14, 9-9 MAC) responded with an unanswered nine-point run. The final minutes of the quarter saw the Bulls take control, scoring 12 unanswered points to end the quarter with a 20-9 lead. Reid was the quarter’s top scorer with eight points.
The second quarter was a closer affair, with the Broncos outscoring the Bulls 15 to 12. Buffalo struggled offensively, shooting 4-for-16 in the quarter. Sophomore forward Summer Hemphill ended the half with four points, four rebounds and two assists. The Bulls led 32-24 at the end of the half.
“I asked the team at halftime, ‘Do we stay with the same defense?’ And they said, ‘No, Coach. We extend the defense,’” Legette-Jack said. “So this is a team that's responsible for their own success and they tell me what they want to do. I agree with them and I just clap as they go.”
The Bulls changed the complexion of the game in the third, forcing seven steals and shooting 4-for-9 from three-point range. Jones and Dillard combined for 17 points in the quarter, while the Broncos scored 12. Dillard finished the game with 17 points, six steals and six assists. The Bulls led 59-36 heading into the fourth.
In the last quarter, Buffalo continued the pressure as the bench came out and finished the game, outsourcing the Broncos 26 to 17. At the post-game press conference, players and Legette-Jack attributed the win to the whole team.
“When you look at coach Jack on the sideline, how do you not have energy,” Dillard said. “That's how she is 24/7. Any energy that we don't feel, we look at her and she bounces just as high as players on the court. The energy just flows right out of you.”
The Bulls created scoring chances while limiting the Broncos, outshooting Western Michigan 33-for-76 to 21-for-52. The Broncos’ strongest play came from junior forward Breanna Mobley who had a game-high 21 points and 8 rebounds.
The Bulls will play next in the MAC tournament finals against the Central Michigan Chippewas (27-4, 17-1 MAC) with tipoff set for 11 a.m. on Saturday.