Season suddenly looks golden, Bulls remain undefeated in MAC
Buffalo improves to 3-0 in conference play for first time since ’98-99
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 20:01
In a game where no Buffalo player scored over 16 points or attempted more than 13 shots, the women’s basketball team achieved its season-high for points in a victory.
The Bulls (5-11, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) continued their dominance in MAC play Wednesday evening with a 69-54 victory at Kent State (2-14, 0-3 MAC). The win marks the Bulls’ second consecutive double-digit victory and their third straight win.
Sophomore guard Sloane Walton led the team with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3 for 6 from behind the arc. Walton is the Bulls’ third different leading scorer in as many games. This is the first season the Bulls have started 3-0 since joining the MAC in the 1998-99 season.
“[Athletic Director] Danny White hired me to do a job and the job that I’m supposed to do is to go out there and manage these young women to help them understand that it’s important to put a group together that all believes in the same cause and success can come,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “I’m not trying to sound cliché or corny. I’m being real honest. What we are trying to do is manage this journey we are on together.”
Kent State built an early six-point lead in the first 4:30 of the game before the Buffalo attack countered. A 3-pointer from sophomore forward Kristen Sharkey began a 35-16 Bulls run to end the first half and take a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime. The Buffalo defense held Kent State to just 25 percent shooting from the field in the half.
“[We] were finally able to get our rhythm in the first half that was a tremendous lift,” Legette-Jack said. “With Sloan [Walton] stepping in and Christa Baccas coming off the bench, they gave us that lift that we needed to get that rhythm into that synergy.”
Kent State began the second half much like the first. The Golden Flashes scored the first four points of the half to pull within single digits, but with the score 51-42 with just under 11 minutes remaining, Buffalo went on a 10-1 run to extend its lead to 18, the largest of the game. The Bulls were able to breathe easily from then on.
Junior forward Cherridy Thornton scored the final eight points to cap off the victory. She finished second on the team in scoring with 14 points.
“I wish I could tell you we are there yet, but we are not,” Legette-Jack said. “What we want to do is stay in the moment. We are trying to get our kids to understand the next possession is the most important possession and the next stop is the most important stop.”
Much of the Bulls’ offensive efficiency can be credited to their defensive play. Buffalo forced 23 turnovers, which the squad converted into 23 points. The 23 turnovers are the most the Bulls have forced in conference play.
“In order to force 23 turnovers against anybody, it takes a collective effort,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we are certainly closer to where we want to be.”
The Bulls’ collective unselfishness has led to five different leading scorers in the past five games. The strong bench play continues to favor them during their win streak, as Buffalo’s reserves outscored Kent State’s 40-12. The Bulls’ bench has outscored opponents 77-22 in conference play.
Sophomore forward Christa Baccas continued to prove herself as a force in the paint as she blocked three shots. She scored 12 points along with her second consecutive 14-rebound game.
“Nobody on this team points the finger [at anybody else],” Legette-Jack said. “It’s all about: ‘I have to do better, I have to do more.’”
The Bulls look to extend their conference winning streak to four on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Toledo (14-2, 2-1 MAC). Game time is set for 2 p.m.