UB women’s basketball preview: Bulls face fellow struggling teams

The Spectrum

The usually passionate and lively Felisha Legette-Jack sat at the press conference after the women’s basketball team’s 70-55 loss to Eastern Michigan Wednesday in stoic silence. She then began apologizing.

The head coach apologized to the school, the athletic department and the fans for the Bulls’ “passiveness” during the game.

It’s rare for Legette-Jack to act in such a fashion, but Buffalo’s performance spoke for itself.

The Bulls (12-12, 4-9 MAC) gave up 70 points for the second time in three games and are slowly sinking to the bottom of the conference. After automatically advancing to Cleveland for the MAC Tournament the past two seasons, Buffalo will likely have to play a first round campus game.

Buffalo hosts fellow MAC basement-dwellers Miami Ohio (9-15, 3-10 MAC) and Bowling Green (8-14, 4-9 MAC) at Alumni Arena on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively. The Bulls are currently tied with the Falcons for the No. 8 seed in the MAC Tournament.

“This is a team that has to find a way to get some gumption in their belly,” Legette-Jack said. “If we don’t have some gumption in their bellies, this season will be over very soon.”

Buffalo has struggled mightily for more than a month. After a 10-4 start, the Bulls have went just 2-8 in their past 10 games. Buffalo has allowed 66.7 points a game in its last 10 games – a far cry from the 56.4 points a game it was allowing during the first 14 games.

The Bulls’ home-court advantage doesn’t exist, either. While most teams play better at their own venue, Buffalo is just 5-5 at Alumni Arena this season.

“You don’t have a home-court advantage when your record is 5-5,” Legette-Jack said. “There’s no secret potion that will make this change. We have to change. We have to slap the floor and play defense better.”

But if Buffalo’s defense could get back on track, matchups against the Falcons and the RedHawks could be the “potion” it is looking for.

Bowling Green and Miami Ohio both have weak offenses. The RedHawks are third-to-last in the conference in points scored a game (61.4) and the Falcons are dead last with 58.6 points per game.

And sandwiched at second-to-last are the Bulls with 59.3 points a game.

Leading the way for Buffalo is junior guard Joanna Smith, who has a team-leading 18.5 points per game and has accounted for 31 percent of the team’s offense.

Following Smith is her backcourt partner sophomore guard Stephanie Reid, who has been exploring her offensive game in the past couple weeks rather than being just a floor facilitator.

There are still problems with the frontcourt. Buffalo has yet to find the answer to replace graduated Bulls Kristen Sharkey and Christa Baccas. The closest the Bulls have come is junior Cassier Oursler and freshman Mirte Scheper, but both forwards are inexperienced.

Scheper also may not play on Saturday. She left Wednesday’s matchup after 10 minutes of action due to an undisclosed injury. She is considered day-to-day.

But this week’s matchups against fellow struggling teams may be what Buffalo needs, but Legette-Jack doesn’t care who the Bulls are playing.

“We can’t worry about Miami and Bowling Green,” Legette-Jack said. “We have to worry about us – our toughness, our fight. We’re going to have to figure that out soon.”

Saturday’s game against Miami Ohio starts at 2:30 p.m.

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