Inconsistency Plagues Women's Basketball Over Break
While most UB students were enjoying a nice long semester break, the women's basketball team had a full course load, playing a total of 10 games in our absence, including seven conference games.
The Bulls went from being as hot as a Hawaii heat wave - scoring a stunning 55-43 upset over Big East powerhouse Seton Hall - to being as cold as a Buffalo blizzard in a 76-29 debacle at then-23rd-ranked Tulane. Over the break, they went 5-5, bringing their record to 8-10 overall (3-4 in the MAC) from a 3-5 start.
While their .500 record is respectable for a young team over a 10 game period, the Bulls unfortunately faltered at the most significant portion of their schedule, as they dropped three-straight conference games to Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Bowling Green. Buffalo snapped the losing streak on Wednesday with a 50-39 victory at Northern Illinois.
The team began playing in the break on Dec. 18 and started out strong, getting their first road win of the season against East Carolina 49-40. For the game, the Bulls were 15 of 20 from behind the arc. UB also shot 42.9 percent from the floor.
"I'm very excited about the win on the road," said UB Head Coach Cheryl Dozier. "For this young team, it's important to get that first road victory."
Next was the home win versus the Seton Hall Pirates on Dec. 22. The Bulls went into halftime trailing, but then outscored SHU 37-23 in the second half, riding on a very strong defensive performance.
"We go as our defense goes, and I thought we played extremely well," said Dozier after the game.
The team then headed into New Orleans for the Tulane Classic, where No. 23 Tulane stomped the Bulls 76-29 in tournament play on Dec. 28, proving to be just too much for the young squad. Buffalo then rebounded to win the consolation game against Long Island University 62-60.
After losing their next game, the conference opener, in Miami, Ohio 66-60 on Jan. 3, the Bulls won another two in a row. First they dominated the Zips of Akron 73-47 on Jan. 5, and then beat Central Michigan 55-45 in Alumni Arena on Jan. 8.
"Defense is what wins games for us, that's the way it's been all year long," said Dozier of the two wins. "We might not score a lot, but if we hold teams under 50, we'll always have a chance to win."
After those two victories the Bulls had an even record (7-7) and were in position to break the .500 barrier for the first time all year. Unfortunately, that opportunity did not last long. Buffalo then hit their dubious three-game skid, beginning on the road against the Bowling Green Falcons on Jan. 12.
Against a woeful BGSU squad, the Bulls may have underestimated their opponents. The hungry Falcons team swooped down and got their first kill of the MAC season, eking out a 71-69 upset.
Toledo added to UB's downward slide, jumping out to a 27-14 halftime advantage en route to a 56-46 win back in Buffalo on Jan. 16.
The Bulls, normally a very formidable team at home, dropped their second in a row in the friendly confines of Alumni Arena against the hot-shooting Eastern Michigan Eagles. EMU shot almost 46 percent for the game as Buffalo gave up a season high 78 points.
"We couldn't get the job done on the defensive end of the floor. They really hurt us from three-point range, especially in the second half," said Dozier after the game. "We can't give up 78 points, especially on our home floor. We need to find the passion for defense that we had earlier in the season."
The Bulls finally broke their losing streak Wednesday when they played at Northern Illinois University. The team also captured its first victory against the Huskies since they joined the MAC in 1998.
Northern Illinois went into halftime with a slim 17-15 lead, but UB turned it up in the second half, going on a 19-2 run over an eight-minute span to take a commanding 41-25 lead with a little over seven minutes remaining.
The defense played up to its standard throughout the second half and didn't allow the Huskies an opportunity to get back into the game.
"I knew it would be a battle of the defenses with us and NIU being the top two defensive teams in the conference," said Dozier.
The Bulls were led by freshman Erin Lawrenson who scored a career-high 15 points. Sophomore Jessica Kochendorfer was close behind with 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. For Northern Illinois, Kristan Knake led her team with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Over the last ten games, the Bulls have seen outstanding play from the usual suspects. For the season Jessica Kochendorfer leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks, averaging 13.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Team co-captain Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe isn't far behind with 12.3 points, and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Teammate Virginia Jennings has also proven herself to be a clutch player as she has delivered some solid performances when the Bulls needed leadership, including a last-second shot which gave the Bulls their win against Long Island. Jennings missed the home loss to Toledo with a sprained left ankle, but has since returned to the starting lineup.
Buffalo will play MAC East rival Akron on Saturday night at Alumni Arena at 5:00 p.m. This will be the second time these two teams meet, with the Bulls having taken the last game convincingly at Akron.
"I'm pleased that we came out and executed our game plan [against NIU]," said Dozier. "I hope this win propels our players into the next few games."