The Bulls won 70-53 after struggling against the Ohio Bobcats’ defense in the first half Saturday afternoon. The Bulls set the school win record at 23 with this game.
Junior guard Autumn Jones led the Bulls in scoring with 14 points, all of which came in the second half. Sophomore forward Summer Hemphill set the school record for rebounds with 23 and had 10 points in the Mid-American Conference game.
“I had no clue. I was thinking I had at least 10, not thinking it was nowhere near 20 or setting a school record,” Hemphill said in the post-game press conference. “I was just getting rebounds for the guards.”
With the Bulls (23-4, 14-2 MAC) already clinching the East division, Buffalo is left chasing the Central Michigan Chippewas (23-4, 15-1 MAC) for the top spot in the MAC with two games left this season. The win over the Bobcats (15-12, 9-7 MAC) keeps the Bulls one game behind with the Chippewas picking up a win on Saturday.
“We want to not be in this big of a hole in the first half,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “This is a team that in the past I would have to yell at to get them going. I came in there made a quick adjustment. … Once we made that adjustment it was a matter of when.”
The game started as a defensive battle. Both teams were able to hold the other on offense, limiting shooting and forcing turnovers. Combined the teams shot 8-30 and had 10 turnovers in the first period. The Bulls tried several three-point attempts early in the period and came up empty, shooting 1-6 from beyond the arc in the period. At the end of the first, the Bulls led 13-11.
The second period saw both teams keep up the defensive pressure, causing Legette-Jack to call a timeout at 4:56 with the Bulls trailing 17-18. Even after the break, both teams continued to play tight-knit defense. The Bulls continued to struggle with shooting in the period, going 0-7 from beyond the arc. None of the Bulls had more than 6 points in the first half with Buffalo only scoring 8 points in the second period. The Bulls trailed 26-21 at the end of the half.
“We saw a 2-3 zone and looked at it like it was a big bad wolf,” Legette-Jack said. “It was just a 2-3 zone and it must start sagging when our motivation is to attack. We started chucking up threes and stopped attacking the zone.”
The Bulls headed into the third period after a season-low scoring performance in the first half. Jones came out and made her first two three-point attempts to allow the Bulls to close in on the lead. Both teams picked up on offense, scoring a combined 29 points to make it a 40-36 Bulls lead with 4:45 left in the period. The Bulls would finish the period leading 47-41.
The Bulls stayed hot in the second half to outscore the Bobcats 23-12. Multiple Bulls picked up shooting, letting Buffalo play a variety of players and still grow its lead.
“We finally found our way to play,” Hemphill said. “So they couldn’t handle how we were defending them. Then our defense led to our offense and it was just overwhelming them.”
The Bobcats kept their defense tight all night with all five defenders playing close to the hoop. The Bulls were able to break down the Ohio defense as the game went on. The Bobcats had a strong performance from sophomore guard Amani Burke who had a game-high of 18 points.
The Bulls’ next game will be against the Kent State Golden Flashes (12-16, 5-11 MAC) on Wednesday at Kent with tipoff set for 7 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Zafonte is a senior English major. He is a UB sports fan and enjoys traveling around Buffalo.