Bengals Give Bulls a Scare in Opening Exhibition Game
The Bulls defeated the Division-III Buffalo State in a contest that remained close well into the game. Joonbum Park /// The Spectrum
It was just an exhibition on the schedule, but losing to Buffalo State would have been a catastrophe for the women's basketball team. The Bengals play in Division-III, but falling to them seemed to be a distinct possibility for much of the game.
That didn't happen however. Thanks to a second-half surge, the Bulls avoided the upset and won 80-67 over their cross-town foe.
"I think we took this team a little bit for granted," said head coach Linda Hill- MacDonald. "We weren't playing with the intensity we needed to [in the first half]."
The first 30 minutes of the game were much closer than fans expected, as the teams spent much of the early part of the game trading baskets. The game was tied on a number of occasions including midway through the second half at 44 apiece. The Bulls didn't take a double-digit lead until just eight minutes remained.
However, the Bulls were able to pull away thanks in large part to senior guard Brittany Hedderson, who fueled a 30-12 run that put the Bulls ahead for good. Her 22 points were a game-high, and 14 of those points came in the second half.
"I've had a lot of experience since freshman year, so I'm willing to help my teammates through the difficult times," Hedderson said. "I'm just here to support my teammates and make the shot, or pass, or whatever the situation calls for."
Hedderson is the only returning starter from last year. Her experience makes her a valuable asset to this young team, as coach Hill-MacDonald thinks Hedderson is someone they can lean on this season.
"She's the player with the wealth of experience," said Hill-McDonald. "She's got a great basketball IQ, and gives [younger players] great advice."
Hedderson's experience proved to be even more valuable in Wednesday's exhibition, as three other key players were sidelined with injuries. Junior guard Nicki Hopkins and sophomore forwards Rachael Bantelman and Kristen Sharkey were all inactive. Hopkins' injury is only a short-term one and she is expected to return to practice this week, but the other two will have a longer-lasting impact on the team. Bantelman is still a few weeks away from setting foot back on the court, and Sharkey will sit this season out.
The injuries at the forward position forced other players to step up. The Bulls received a boost from the play of sophomore forward Nytor Longar. Longar was a force in the paint with 19 points and eight rebounds, as her height was a huge advantage for Buffalo. Senior forward Beth Christensen added nine points and nine rebounds, while playing a team-high 35 minutes. Senior guard Teresa Semalulu was a big factor, as well, scoring 14 points.
The Bulls also saw a significant amount of minutes from their five freshmen, but none were more impressive than forward Christa Baccas, who finished with eight points, six rebounds, and one thunderous block in 16 minutes of play.
"We're down post players right now," Hill-MacDonald said. "This is a great opportunity for Christa and she stepped up to the plate tonight. She's going to be a great player. I think she gave us quality minutes tonight, and she'll definitely work herself into our rotation. There's no doubt about it."
Baccas was one of three freshmen to play double-digit minutes for the Bulls. Freshman guard Valerie Majewski played 12 minutes, recording two points, and freshman guard Sloane Walton went scoreless in 10 minutes on the court.
Every game will count starting next Friday, Nov. 11. The Bulls will open up their regular season schedule at Niagara to face another local opponent in the Purple Eagles. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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