UB women’s basketball upsets No. 1 seed Ohio to advance to MAC Semifinals

Bulls hold Bobcats to 38 percent shooting


  Anything can happen in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

The first game in Cleveland was proof.

The No. 8 seed Bulls (18-13, 8-10 MAC) shocked No. 1 seed Ohio (24-6, 16-3 MAC) for the third time this season – this time in MAC Tournament Quarterfinals, 72-60, in Cleveland, Ohio Wednesday afternoon. The Bulls, now winners of six of their last seven games, move on to the MAC Tournament Semifinals for the second consecutive year.

Buffalo was the only MAC team to defeat Ohio this year. Half of the Bobcat’s total losses this season came at the hands of the Bulls.

The Bulls are the first No. 8 seed to knock off No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament.

“Ohio is an unbelievable team with unbelievable players,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, “but today, our players decided that if anyone was going to beat us, they were going to have to take it from us. This young team is carrying this old lady to a place she’s really excited to go towards.”

The Bobcats entered the game as the No. 2 offense in the conference, while Buffalo sported the No. 1 defense in the league.

In the team’s two regular season matchups, the Bulls limited the best part of Ohio’s game: offense. Wednesday was no different, as the Bulls continued to stifle Ohio’s offense by holding it to 42 percent shooting from the floor and 29 first-half points.

And for a team that relies on the three-point shot, the Bobcats shot 8 of 25 from deep.

In the third quarter, the Bulls made their statement run of the game. After a back-and-forth game at the beginning of the second half, Buffalo went on a 12-4 run and took the lead into the fourth quarter. Two three-pointers, one from sophomore guard Katherine Ups and the other from junior guard Joanna Smith, turned a Buffalo deficit into a decisive Buffalo lead.

Smith said the team is embracing the very term that defines the NCAA postseason.

“It was survive and advance from the get-go,” Smith said. “We came into the game knowing we were up two to their zero in the regular season, but it didn’t matter. We throw those out the window. We came out to this game like we never played them before and it showed today.”

Buffalo has preached defense as its the focal point. It showed at the best possible moment in the fourth quarter. The Bulls held the Bobcats to 35 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from three-point range in the final quarter.

The Bulls’ defense has been the best part of the team, but the offense was equally impressive Wednesday.

Buffalo finished shooting 63 percent from the field in that pivotal fourth quarter, led by junior center Cassie Oursler. She scored 10 points in the final quarter, and finished with 15 points and five rebounds in the game.

Sophomore guard Stephanie Reid finished with 16 points, four assists and two steals for the Bulls while scoring and getting to the free throw line. After the game, Reid cited her teammates and Legette-Jack as the reason she’s so calm as she orchestrates the offense.

“We just know when we need to slow down, speed it up,” Reid said. “Coach has taught me when to slow it down, take some time for the possession, especially late in the game. It’s just the fact we have all these great players here, it makes it easy to be composed. It makes it easy.”

Smith finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes played for the Bulls, while Ups finished with seven points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Freshman guard Brittany Morrison finished with six points and five rebounds.

With the victory, Legette-Jack expressed excitement. But she also wants to see more from her bench. 87 percent of the team’s total offense came from the starting five, with only senior guard Karin Moss (eight points) and freshman guard Gabi Bade (one point) scoring off the bench.

If the Bulls want to continue, Legette-Jack said they’ll need all of her players.

The Bulls will now move on to the MAC Semifinals on Friday to face No. 5 Akron (18-12, 11-7 MAC) following their overtime victory against Toledo. The Bulls were swept by Akron in their two regular season matchups.

“We need them all,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re just not talented to let [Joanna Smith] and [Stephanie Reid] do everything. I’m hoping the other players continue to come in off the bench and play well … I’m excited about where we are, but I’m not satisfied. I think the best is yet to come.”

Tipoff is set for noon on Friday.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter