Bulls' cold outside shooting leads to early exit from MAC tourney
Buffalo’s historic season ends in conference quarterfinals
Sophomore guard Karin Moss (24) had six points and two assists in 17 minutes as the Bulls fell in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum
CLEVELAND - The women's basketball team had twice as many second-half field-goal attempts as Ball State in Thursday's quarterfinal match of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Despite the shot differential, however, the two teams made the same amount of field goals (10).
The No. 4 Bulls (17-13, 10-8 MAC) were eliminated from the MAC Tournament following a 74-60 loss to No. 5 Ball State (17-15, 9-9 MAC) at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday afternoon. Buffalo struggled shooting throughout the game and missed its final six 3-pointers in the closing two minutes.
"Some shots we were taking weren't falling toward the end there," said sophomore guard Mackenzie Loesing, who made second team All-MAC. "We were forced to take more outlandish shots and we struggled. We couldn't hit."
The Bulls shot just 30.6 percent from the field, including 22.7 percent in the second half. They took 24 second-half 3-pointers compared to just eight in the first half and shot just 21.9 percent from beyond the arc. Ball State shot 44.9 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from deep for the game.
Every starter besides senior guard Margeaux Gupilan shot under their regular season percentage in the loss. Junior forwards Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas and freshman forward Alexus Malone all shot over 45 percent during the season; the trio shot a combined 10 for 30 Thursday.
Much of this was due to the Cardinals' halftime adjustments. The three aren't much of long-range shooters, but they took a combined 11 3-pointers, including eight in the second half. The trio hit just two shots from beyond the arc.
The Bulls had just eight second-half points in the paint compared to 20 in the first half. Malone and Sharkey combined for 15 first-half points on 75 percent shooting, but they played only 18 combined minutes due to foul trouble.
"If you would have looked at their shot chart at halftime, all but one of their makes came within 4 feet, so we really tried to take that out of the equation," said Ball State head coach Brady Sallee.
Loesing had one of her poorest shooting performances of the season. She shot just 4 for 20, including 1 for 8 from beyond the arc. She finished the game with 10 points.
"Mackenzie didn't have the best shooting game of her career and neither did [sophomore guard Karin Moss], and we had to hit a couple of those shots for them to release on our post players inside," said second-year head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
Moss shot 2 for 7 from deep in 17 minutes.
The Bulls and Cardinals exchanged leads for the majority of the first half. Buffalo led by as many as seven midway through the first half. Ball State reclaimed the lead less than three minutes later and neither team led by more than four points for the remainder of the half. The Cardinals led 38-34 at halftime.
Loesing hit a 3-pointer one minute into the second half but failed to score for the remainder of the game. She missed her final 11 attempts.
"It's never comfortable or fun to be in this position," Loesing said. "Obviously coming in, we believed we could be MAC champs, so to see that dream go away so soon was unexpected."
Ball State's second half lead reached 10 points before a Buffalo 8-0 run brought the game to 51-49 with 8:04 remaining. The Cardinals outscored the Bulls 20-8, however, for the remainder of the game.
Buffalo 17 wins are its most since 2002-03. The program had never had a bye straight to the quarterfinals before this season.
"I think anyone who follows MAC women's basketball can see that transformation that has happened in the past few years here," Loesing said. "I think yes our future is very exciting, but we should have had it this year."
Legette-Jack said after the game the Bulls have an "outside shot" at playing in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Ball State advances to the conference semifinals to play Bowling Green (27-3, 17-1 MAC) Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. The UB men's basketball team plays Thursday at 9 p.m.
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