Time to reclaim

Women's basketball looks to make history with start of postseason

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The Bulls have had a historic season without even going to the Mid-American Conference tournament yet. The team set the program Division-I win record, went undefeated at home, won the MAC East division and is being considered as an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

But the Bulls (25-4, 17-2 MAC) don’t plan to stop there. Players and coaches said the team is looking for redemption at the MAC tournament in Cleveland after losing the MAC championship last year.

“We are looking towards reclaiming and advancing,” said senior center Cassie Oursler after the Bowling Green game on Saturday. “Other people are looking at survive and advance. We want to reclaim the title that is ours. We are going in there to kick some booty and give it our all.”

The MAC championship will be held in Quicken Loans arena March 7-10. The Bulls lost 72-65 against the Toledo Rockets (17-13, 8-10 MAC) in the quarterfinals last year after winning the MAC championship two seasons ago. Coaches and players said they are looking forward to the postseason and the chance to make more history beyond just being MAC champions.

“I sat down and thanked God for the opportunity, not to tell somebody something but to see it through,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “Let them see if their faith is strong enough and not goodness, but greatness could come through. So why not try to go after a national championship. … If you reach for the moon, you might land on one of those pretty stars.”

The Bulls’ first game will be on Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s matchup between the Bowling Green Falcons (11-18, 3-15 MAC) and the Toledo Rockets. Senior guard Stephanie Reid said the Bulls will bring back the MAC championship to Buffalo in a postgame speech after Saturday's game.

“We just got to win it. I just promised all of Alumni that we are going to win so we better execute,” Reid said. “I am going to do everything I possibly can to make it happen and this team will too.”

Reid has come up big at the championship in the past, making the last second shot that won the Bulls the tournament back in 2016. Now in her final games as a Bull, Reid will continue to lead the team on the court like she has all season. Reid said the reclaimation mentality is something the whole team shares.

“I think we all just got together and said we need to reclaim our title,” Reid said. “We want to get that MAC championship. We are going farther than the first round. We have to. The only way up is progress.”

The MAC has never been considered a major conference in college basketball, with most of the at-large bids going to major conferences like the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Bulls have never received an at-large bid in program history. An at-large bid would get the Bulls into the NCAA tournament without having to win the MAC championship.

“It is exciting. It is good that they are finally respecting our conference and respecting us as a group,” Reid said. “I think it is something that we worked for as a senior class because we have always been overlooked.”

The MAC has never looked stronger than this season with the Bulls, the Central Michigan Chippewas (25-4, 17-1 MAC) and the Ball State Cardinals (24-5, 13-5 MAC) all having successful seasons. Legette-Jack said she is confident that at-large bids will come to not just the Bulls but other teams in the MAC.

“To see them put together a 25-4 season just lets me know we are going into the postseason, and we are going to the NCAA no matter what,” Leggette-Jack said. “I know these guys aren’t going to quit. They are going to go out there and play their next game as if it was their first game.”

No matter the Bulls’ path to the NCAA tournament, they will have a chance to make more history before the NCAA tournament’s set start of March 23.

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

@Thomas_Spectrum