UB Bulls women's basketball are bits and pieces

Amid several changes, women look to replicate last season’s success.

This is a young women’s basketball team, but let’s backtrack for a second.

Buffalo is coming off its best season in program history, winning 19 games and making its first-ever Women’s National Invitational Tournament appearance. It was a steppingstone kind for a season for a program that needed one.

But the Bulls lost their best player in Kristen Sharkey and the reigning Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in Christa Baccas to graduation. Mackenzie Loesing retired early due to a career-ending ankle injury. Their fourth leading scorer, Alexus Malone, transferred to Louisiana Tech.

So now, after the losses, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack and her staff are left with a team that has just two juniors and one senior coming off the bench.

And with that, the goal should be focusing toward the future.

If last year showed anything, it’s that Legette-Jack can acquire talent and get it to play at the highest level. The fact that last season’s team was a few plays from making the Mid-American Conference Championship game is only a testament that Buffalo’s fast-paced and aggressive style of play should be able to sustain success in the MAC.

But Legette-Jack has her work cut out for her.

I’d like to see the roster shoot the ball better. It’s a newer group of players and I hope two or three of them can provide some floor spacing. There were times last season when the Bulls would go down six or eight points and it appeared over because they didn’t have the threat of someone who can hit a 3-point shot.

The backcourt appears set with guards Stephanie Reid and Joanna Smith. Reid entered the Buffalo rotation midway through the season as a freshman and flourished, stabilizing the point guard position and leading the Bulls in assists. Smith was a scoring threat the last month of the season.

And there’s depth behind Smith and Reid, too. Junior Camera Miley, senior Karin Moss, sophomores Liisa and Katherine Ups and freshman Gabi Bade, all guards, will be factors in a busy backcourt filled with 3-point shooters and smart passers. Miley could have an upper hand, thanks to the ability to play point guard. In the preseason, Bade showcased her ability to shoot the long ball and play aggressively on the defensive end.

The frontcourt is where the questions lie. At center, I’m excited to see freshman Mirte Scheper play. She is going to be an X-factor defensively. When speaking to Legette-Jack last month, one of the things she mentioned was Scheper giving the Bulls the ability to “play bigger.”

But the Bulls could also go smaller, playing four guards and keeping Scheper in the middle. Running smaller lineups that could pick up the pace is something the Bulls can do as a changeup, looking to get an advantage against opponents with slower guards on the roster.

Along the small forward and power forward positions are sophomores Courtney Wilkins, Cassie Oursler and Mariah Suchan and freshman Tamara Brcina. At 6-foot-3, Oursler should be able to play some backup center, too. Wilkins play a bit in the preseason and shot five threes, possibly attempting to extend her range and space the floor. 

Brcina and Suchan appear to be more traditional forwards capable of being more post-orientated rather than perimeter scorers.

It’s a far cry from last year’s team. There’s no doubt about it. Loesing will be missed for her energy on the court. Sharkey’s post moves will only be seen through a clipboard on the sidelines. Baccas graduated with her Defensive Player of the Year award, leaving many question marks for the Buffalo ‘D.’

But I’m not looking at the past. This team has weapons in all areas of the court. The roster may be depleted, but there are some solid skill players that will eventually find a home at UB.

Ohio and Akron are still the team’s to beat in the MAC. But once Buffalo settles down, it may be mentioned in elite company as well.

It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together. 

Quentin Haynes is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. You can follow him on twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum