Dillard shines in win over Kent State

Bulls win second-straight game at home

womans-b-ball

Senior guard Cierra Dillard continued her MVP season with 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the Bulls’ 75-66 win over Kent State on Saturday.

Buffalo’s (16-5, 8-2 Mid-American Conference) starting lineup dominated the night and scored 71 out of 75 points. The Bulls forced turnovers and got out in transition to give them the edge. Sophomore starting point guard Hanna Hall was limited to just 17 minutes after taking a hard hit in the second half.

“What a fun game,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “I told our team when we came out of the half at Toledo that this team has the potential to do the same thing. We need to be ready and they weren't ready. We have to get better, we have to learn how to knock people out.”

The Bulls started the game strong with an 11-2 run to open the game. Dillard quickly scored five points to open her day. Kent State (12-9, 5-5 MAC) responded with a 6-4 run to end the first quarter 15-8 in favor of Buffalo.

The Bulls maintained their hot shooting through the second quarter with a 10-6 run to open the quarter. Senior forward Courtney Wilkins knocked down a three and junior forward Summer Hemphill got a layup in transition during the run.

Wilkins and Dillard drained back-to-back threes and then Wilkins hit her third three of the quarter to blow the game wide open. The Bulls were up 41-25 and finished the half up 41-27.

“I definitely give credit to Kent State. They're a tremendous fast-paced team,” Dillard said. “We definitely have to come out ready to play each quarter and definitely at halftime. You can never sleep on a team in the MAC. ”

Buffalo went on a 6-0 run to open the second half and pushed their lead to the largest of the game 47-27. But, Kent State was not done and played their best basketball of the game. The Golden Flashes rattled off the most lopsided run of the game 19-5 to make it a six-point game with 4:07 to play in the third.

“Transition threes,” Dillard said. “They got through some lapses in our defense and we were scrambling. They got open shots and some lucky bounces on rebounds. We have to do a better job on that.”

The confident Bulls were stirred.

Buffalo continued to be cold in the fourth and went without a basket for the first four minutes of the quarter. The lead was now four.

Buffalo then only scored three points in eight minutes. Dillard joked after the win, saying “you noticed that too,” and stated how in those moments they pride themselves on their defense.

The two leaders of the team, Dillard and Hemphill, stepped up with a pair of and-ones to push the lead to 10 and Buffalo didn’t look back with four minutes remaining. 

Kent State would get within seven with under a minute left. Dillard iced the game with two free throws and the Bulls were able to dribble out the remaining clock.

Hemphill recorded her seventh double-double on the season with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Wilkins recorded her second-highest scoring performance of the season with 16 points and five made threes. Theresa Onwuka, a junior guard, contributed eight points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes.

The Bulls finished 16-18 from the free-throw line, Dillard had eight makes.

Buffalo will play at Bowling Green on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.