In the last 33 seconds of Wednesday’s game, UB junior point guard Stephanie Reid was sent to the line four different times.
Ball State brought the game within one possession twice in the last 15 seconds, but every time they scored, Buffalo put the ball back in Reid’s hands.
Reid responded by hitting seven of eight free throws down the stretch to put the game on ice.
The No. 7 seed Buffalo Bulls (22-9, 11-8 Mid-American Conference) upset the No. 2 seed Ball State Cardinals (21-10, 14-5 MAC) 69-65 in the MAC tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The Bulls led for most of the game but never pulled away. The game featured eight different ties, but the Bulls never relinquished the lead after going ahead early in the second quarter.
Reid finished with 18 points and six assists. Senior guard JoAnna Smith added 14 points and nine boards.
“I’ve got JoAnna Smith and Stephanie Reid on my team, I'm blessed, man,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack after the game. “You guys hear how these young ladies speak, you see their hearts. I am so smitten by the young ladies that I share a locker room with.”
Buffalo outrebounded the Cardinals 44-33 and pulled down 17 offensive boards. They scored 17-second chance points and 38 points in the paint.
“Rebounding, all it is, is heart,” Jack said. “Don’t tell me you’re too small. Don’t tell me they’re faster. Don’t tell me they have something more special than you.”
The Bulls opened up the scoring quick with the first six points of the game. Reid scored or assisted on all three baskets. The Cardinals managed to right the ship and take the next six points on back-to-back three pointers from junior forward Moriah Monaco. Ball State kept things close after that and the rest of the first quarter featured four lead changes.
Monaco gave the Bulls the most trouble all night. She finished with 27 points and was 7-of-12 from behind the three-point line.
“[They] have a great shooter in Moriah Monaco and even when she had a hand in her face, she shot it,” Reid said. “But we really did well in contesting shots and adjusting from last game to keep them to 64 points, I think that's a really great effort.”
The Bulls shot poorly the whole game, going 1-of-14 from three. Their only three came in the first quarter. Smith was 0-of-7 from three.
But the Bulls played relentless defense all night. They held the Cardinals 10 points below their season scoring average of 75.5.
UB is now 21-1 when holding their opponent to 65 points or less.
“I think defense is what sustained us today,” Smith said.
Buffalo managed to pull away before the half with a strong second quarter that included 10 points from the bench. Ball State showed resilience after entering the second half trailing 35-28.
The Cardinals tied the game four different times in the second half but never took the lead.
Smith said that she felt Jack’s difficult practices prepared the team to hold off the Cardinals in crunch time.
“I think Coach Jack does a great job of making sure we're ready,” Smith said. “She puts us in those positions and she make us uncomfortable so when it comes game time, when we're uncomfortable, we're already here.”
The Bulls will take on the winner of the Kent State-Toledo game on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Daniel Petruccelli is the assistant sports editor and can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org