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Bulls proud of performance despite loss in Cleveland, ready for NCAA

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CLEVELAND –– Buffalo may have lost to the Central Michigan Chippewas on Saturday in the MAC Tournament championship final, but head coach Felisha Legette-Jack was still smiling at the postgame press conference.

“What a wonderful opportunity to coach these young ladies,” Legette-Jack said after Saturday’s game at the Quicken Loans Arena. “What a great season we’re having. Still not over yet, so much more basketball to play, so many lessons to learn, so many lessons to teach, so many things to get out of this experience.”

Despite the loss, Buffalo (27-5, 16-2 MAC) still had a historic season. The Bulls set the program’s record for wins in a season before they even got to Cleveland. They had their best record in the MAC in program history, including a perfect 12-0 at home, the best home record since joining the MAC.

Now with talks of an at-large bid ­­–– the first in UB’s basketball history –– the Bulls could have a chance to make even more history. According to the team, what keeps the Bulls going is the belief Buffalo will go to the NCAA Tournament despite not being MAC champions.

“The season’s definitely not over,” said sophomore forward Summer Hemphill. “We definitely have a longer run to look forward to. … It’s definitely a great lesson to learn from before we continue our journey.”

The Bulls picked up wins over the Western Michigan Broncos (18-15, 9-9 MAC) and the Kent State Golden Flashes (13-19, 5-13 MAC) at the tournament. The Bulls will need an at-large bid to get into NCAA Tournament. But every opposing team’s head coach in the MAC Tournament said the Bulls deserve the bid.

“I don’t know if they’re [receiving an at-large bid], but there should be an investigation if they don’t,” said Western Michigan head coach Shane Clipfell after playing the Bulls on Friday. “History says they don’t leave teams out with those kind of RPIs.”

As of March 9, the Bulls were ranked nineteenth in the RPI, a statistical-based ranking of every team in Division I. The Bulls were first in steals, second in scoring defense and third in scoring offense in the MAC this season.

Legette-Jack discussed the pride she has coaching this team in every postgame press conference The Spectrum attended this season. She always called attention to the depth the team has.

“The way we feed off each other, it’s not just one person who has to do everything,” said junior guard Cierra Dillard. “We really feed off each other and we really push in transition. It’s easy to play when you have great teammates like I do.”

Dillard, who was visibly upset after the MAC final, went up to Legette-Jack and said, “You go, girl,” after being interviewed, something Dillard would do after postgame press conferences this season.

Legette-Jack said this team has been different than previous teams she’s coached; the players always seem to be enjoying the game.

“They're just fun, good kids –– just energetic,” Legette-Jack said. “I just say ‘be all of who you are.’ Whoever it is, we can always tone that down. It just bothers me when kids feel they have to act a certain way all the time. Let the magic happen.”

The idea of sisterhood is something coaches and players discussed in several interviews with The Spectrum throughout the season. Legette-Jack said after every game of the MAC Tournament, the Bulls showed that unity in their play.

“You listen to these young ladies, you can’t do anything other than fill up with pride

even if you’ve never seen them before,” Legette-Jack said. “The way they articulate who they are, it’s a credit to our administration that does a tremendous job of allowing our athletes to become just people.”

The Bulls wait for the Selection Showcase on Monday, airing at 7 p.m. on ESPN to see if they will receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and @Thomas_Spectrum.


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