Defense leads Bulls to fourth conference victory
Nicki Hopkins (5) played a career-high 40 minutes as the Bulls beat Western Michigan 63-44 in conference play on Saturday. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
After turning the ball over 31 times on Wednesday, the women's basketball team needed a different demeanor on turnovers and defense on Saturday night.
The Bulls (6-13, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) got it.
Buffalo allowed a season-low 14 points in the first half and forced Western Michigan (6-13, 2-4 MAC) to turn the ball over 19 times in the Bulls' 63-44 victory.
Freshman forward Mackenzie Loesing led Buffalo with 15 points and center Christa Baccas recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
"After the last game, we came out with a fire," Baccas said. "We wanted to recover from that. We worked hard on our defense in practice and knew what they were going to run. We wanted to make sure we could stop them and not let them do what they wanted to do."
The first half was a story of runs for both squads. The Bulls jumped out to an early 9-0 lead after baskets from four different players, but Western Michigan responded right away with a 12-0 run of their own over the next six minutes.
The Broncos' stretch of offense came to a screeching halt after they led 12-9 with a little over 10 minutes remaining. The Bulls scored baskets on their next four possessions, which sparked a 19-2 run to end the half, giving them a 28-14 lead.
Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack credited the Bulls' first half scoring runs to the defense.
"Our goal was to lock in on defense and they did a good job," Legette-Jack said. "They talked to each other, took chances, missed them and their other teammates were there to back them up."
The Bulls maintained their lead throughout the second half and the Broncos never came within 13 points for the remainder of the game.
Their defense held the Broncos to shoot just 24.6 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from behind the arc. In the Bulls' four wins in conference play, they are allowing a stingy 46.8 points per game.
"It was embarrassing the way we played the game before, but you have two choices," Legette-Jack said. "Either drop your head or you change. And we changed."
A dramatic change came in the turnover department. The Bulls nearly cut their turnovers in half on Saturday as they gave the ball away just 16 times.
Sophomore forward Kristen Sharkey continued to haul in rebounds. She had nine points and 10 boards, giving her 34 rebounds in her past three games. Junior guard Margeaux Gupilan chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Junior forward Cherridy Thornton was the third Bull to reach double figures, adding 11 points off the bench.
Six of the Bulls' next eight games will come on the road.
"It is a big deal for us to come back even stronger than we were," Baccas said. "The three-game win streak didn't mean anything. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day."
The Bulls will now travel to Miami Ohio (12-6, 4-1 MAC) for a Thursday afternoon meeting. Game time is set for 12 p.m.
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