Lack of post presence hurting UB women’s basketball

Wilkins emerges as key forward, but Oursler’s presence is needed

For the second consecutive game, the women’s basketball team was defeated.

Sunday’s loss to Duquesne wasn’t anything like Buffalo’s loss 79-36 against Hofstra. The Bulls (6-2) held a lead for a large portion of the games against the Dukes Sunday. They were hitting their shots, playing with confidence and moving the ball around to the open shooter.

Then the second half came around and Buffalo’s biggest flaw was exposed: lack of a true post presence.

The success of the team last year fell on forwards Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas because they were stalwarts in the paint. They defended and executed, rather than giving up on a play because it may be too late. Baccas, in particular, wasn’t used as an offensive player. She’s was MAC Defensive Player of the Year for a reason.

It’s games like Sunday that make you realize this team needs major help in the post. Buffalo controlled the game in the first half, but then it allowed nearly 30 rebounds in the second half, nine on the offensive glass. Players like Baccas would have prevented a performance like that.

Baccas’ main job was to control the paint and was one of the leaders in the MAC in rebounds and blocked shots.

What’s missing on this team is that presence.

For now.

Buffalo has junior transfer Cassie Oursler, a native of Western New York and dominant post presence, waiting in the wings once her transfer issue with Robert Morris clears up. She’s the ultimate post presence that is missing for this team that needs an identity.

She’s a a missing piece for a team that can win it all this year. The guard play of sophomore Stephanie Reid and junior Joanna Smith has been scintillating. Sophomore twins Liisa and Katherine Ups have been impressive playmakers at the wing, and freshman Gabi Bade has emerged as a three-point threat. Her three three-pointers led the team on Sunday.

But it all starts in the post.

Buffalo did add one more forward to the mix Sunday. Sophomore forward Courtney Wilkins had a solid performance with eight points and three rebounds – her highest totals of the season – in 17 minutes off the bench.

She also proved she could shoot the three ball. She knocked down two three-pointers in the first half with ease. Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack is always looking for versatile forwards and she may have found one in Wilkins.

But a forward’s main job is to contain the post and bring down rebounds on the offensive and defensive glass.

It’s much easier said than done, but playing the forward/center is much more than staying in the post and rebounding. Take freshman Mirte Scheper. She is 6-foot-4 – by far the tallest person on the court on Sunday. But height is only one part of playing the position.

What concerns me about Buffalo’s forward unit is their aggressiveness. Scheper isn’t playing with the tenacity of a 6-foot-4 basketball player. She doesn’t always make a huge effort to grab a rebound – almost as if she’s expecting the ball to just fall down into her hands. That goes for most of Buffalo’s forwards.

For Buffalo to put all of these pieces together, it has to admit that it needs help in the middle. Scheper isn’t aggressive enough and Wilkins is inexperienced. When Oursler comes into play, the defense could find remnants of last year’s team that made it to the semifinals of the MAC Tournament.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.