Learning from the past
In Legette-Jack’s second season, Bulls look to build a winning identity
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 3, 2013 22:11
Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack didn’t want her team to forget about last season. After losing to Akron by 18 and 17 points in the regular season, the Bulls were just minutes away from upsetting the Zips in the Mid-American Conference quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Buffalo lost 83-79 and the Zips went on to play in the MAC championship game. This offseason, Legette-Jack posted Akron’s name all over the locker room to remind her team who ended their 2013 season.
“They knew that we let that one get away from us,” Legette-Jack said. “I thought that we walked into gyms and felt defeated before we even played them. That [game] kind of empowered us because we wished we had just one more.”
The Bulls enter 2013-14 off an eight-win conference season – just the third time they have won at least eight conference games in the past 10 years. Last year’s success has brought increased expectations. Buffalo is predicted to come in third place in the MAC East, according to the MAC preseason polls.
Legette-Jack started this season like she has at previous jobs at Indiana and Hofstra, with a team viewing of Remember the Titans. She believes the film portrays important messages – unity, intensity – to her team. The Bulls also chose an offseason book to read as a team.
Junior forward Kristen Sharkey selected Toughness by former Duke player and current ESPN analysis Jay Bilas. The Bulls tried to understand what it was about Bilas’ career that made his teams successful. In Bilas’ senior year, he helped the Blue Devils to the 1986 national championship game. He was also an assistant coach at Duke for two of its national championships.
In addition to the new expectations, this year is different for Buffalo because the players know exactly what to expect from Legette-Jack and she knows how to better reach her team.
“Last year, we were just so forced into it like, ‘I’m your new coach, you have to take me and I’m all you have and you’re my new players and I have to take you because you are all I have, so let’s figure this out,’” Legette-Jack said. “It was kind of like who’s going to blink first.”
Preseason All-MAC selection and preseason Big Four Player of the Year sophomore guard Mackenzie Loesing leads the Bulls. In 2012-13, Loesing was Buffalo’s leading scorer with 11.6 points per game and recorded the most steals on the team (66). Loesing and junior forward Christa Baccas earned honorable mention All-MAC honors last season.
Senior forward Cherridy Thornton – who played only the final 22 games of last season due to transfer rules – continues to impress Legette-Jack at practice with her ability to score. She averaged 10.8 points last season.
Senior point guard Margeaux Gupilan started 28 of 32 games and led the Bulls with 131 assists. Legette-Jack expects her to increase that number with a better understanding of the offense this season.
The biggest factor this season could be the health of sophomore guard/forward Rachael Gregory, who was leading the Bulls with 10.7 points per game when she tore her ACL. Gregory suffered the injury 17 games into her freshman year and is still rehabbing.
Last year, the Bulls lost their season-opening exhibition game, but this season they demolished Mansfield 94-50. Nine players scored for Buffalo and Legette-Jack is still unsure how many players will be in the rotation because she believes her roster is deep with talent. She says all 14 players can contribute on the court.
Last year’s 12-20 season, with a .500 conference record, was viewed as an incredible accomplishment. This season, the Bulls are eyeing a championship.
Buffalo opens its season on the road to play Binghamton on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Bulls’ home opener will take place Saturday, Nov. 16, against Cornell. Tip is set for 12:30 p.m.