RedHawks down: Bulls advance in MAC Tournament
Freshman Loesing steers Buffalo to quarterfinals
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 23:03
CLEVELAND –Mackenzie Loesing doesn’t mind the lights. On Wednesday afternoon, on the biggest stage she has seen, the freshman guard nicknamed “Truck”played protagonist and drove her squad further in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Loesing scored 24 points –17 in the final nine minutes –to help the women’s basketball team cruise to the quarterfinals with an 82-70 upset win over No. 7 seed Miami Ohio (19-12, 10-6 MAC) in Quicken Loans Arena. The eighth-seeded Bulls (12-19, 8-8 MAC) will play No. 3 Akron (21-8, 12-4 MAC) on Thursday at 2:30.
Buffalo won the second-half battle 52-40 after the teams were tied 30-30 at the break. Loesing, who made the All-MAC Freshman Team, is a Cincinnati native who earned her nickname for her head of steam and ability to shift into a new gear when she attacks the basket. When the game got tight in the waning moments, Loesing stepped on the gas.
“I knew my team needed more from me; I wasn’t doing enough for my team,” Loesing said. “I knew we needed an extra push and I couldn’t have done well today without passes from my teammates.”
Buffalo qualified for play in Cleveland with a 56-46 home win over Northern Illinois (7-23, 2-14 MAC) in Alumni Arena on Saturday. Legette-Jack became the first coach in school history to win a MAC Tournament game in her first season.
The Bulls and RedHawks split their regular-season series, with Buffalo winning 78-70 at home on Jan. 31 and Miami winning 69-56 at home on Feb. 20. Miami guard Courtney Osborn scored 19 points on Wednesday.
“Our defense really let us down today,”she said. “[The Bulls] outplayed us. They outworked us.”
Many of Miami’s defensive woes can be attributed to Loesing’s second-half dominance.
“She’s a very emotional player, a hard worker,”said Miami head coach Maria Fantanarosa, the winningest coach in program history. “She’s really aggressive. She played like she had nothing to lose. We were very tight. We were very hesitant ... instead of just playing our game and being relaxed. You’ve got to give [the Bulls] all the credit.”
For UB, sophomore forward Kristen Sharkey (14 points, eight rebounds), junior guard Margeaux Gupilan (13 points, four assists) and sophomore forward Christa Baccas (eight points, 15 rebounds) turned in exemplary performances. Baccas joined Loesing on the honorable mention All-MAC team.
Buffalo’s bench outscored Miami’s 20-7, and the Bulls scored 20 second-chance points to the RedHawks’ nine.
The Bulls finished the 2011-12 year, the last under former head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald, with a record of 9-22 (4-12 MAC). They did not qualify for the MAC Tournament.
The longer this season continues, the more fans have reason to be optimistic about the future of the program. Legette-Jack has brought six more wins in conference play. All of the Bulls’ five starters and nine of their top 10 players are expected to be back next season.
Legette-Jack is not content.
“We didn’t start off talking about winning; we started off talking about our power and understanding that we have value,”she said. “We have a story to tell. We want to be able to present that story, but we have to be able to do the little things first.
“We have to continue to learn the game, know how to play together, learn how to make mistakes, all in our power –and continue to move forward in our journey.”
So long as Loesing stays hot, Legette-Jack hopes the youngster continues to grasp the wheel on her team’s postseason journey.
The women’s game began at 2:30 p.m., and the men’s basketball team will play at 6:30 p.m. against No. 5 Ball State (15-14, 8-8 MAC). The No. 8 Bulls (13-19, 7-9 MAC) won the only regular-season matchup between the two teams 66-63 in Muncie, Ind., on Jan. 23. Fans can watch Wednesday night’s game on ESPN3.