Losing on a technicality

Felisha-Legette Jack unapologetic for being emotional in Saturday’s game

womens-basketball

There was no love lost between the Bulls and Chippewas Saturday afternoon.

Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack sat in the media room at Alumni Arena next to her star player, senior guard Cierra Dillard, both visibly upset. Legette-Jack gave a thousand-yard stare toward the green screen in the back of the room as she delivered her opening statement.

“It was a tough one,” Legette-Jack said. “To have to walk into that locker room and talk to our players and to explain to them why that wasn’t a consistent kind of game was tough. We’ve learned this lesson.”

The Bulls lost. Not because of poor shooting, bad defense or Central Michigan being the better team. Legette-Jack said they lost because of her.

Central Michigan defeated UB 100-95. The Chippewas and the referees bullied the Bulls in the first half, according to the coach. The Bulls had to put their heads down and fight, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the adversity they faced.

“We’re going to have to walk away understanding that life isn’t fair,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to continue to feed the family and having to continue to monitor what we are supposed to have. We want to get better from this. This is a very disappointing situation for us. We’ve earned the right to be in at the end of the game. They fell short.”

Legette-Jack has never been known to be calm and collected on the sidelines. She’s expressive, explosive and has an insatiable hunger for success. Legette-Jack is not one to be apologetic and certainly not someone to give up.

The Bulls battled and played as the better team Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough. 

Not only is Central Michigan the best team in the conference this season, they defeated the Bulls in the MAC championship game last season.

The Bulls already dropped one game to the Chippewas this season and weren’t about to lose another. They fought their way back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit. They even had a chance to tie the game and go to overtime, but Dillard missed the shot.

The reality is that Buffalo did not win, but there were still lessons for the team to learn. Legette-Jack “doesn’t coach girls, I coach women,” as she reminded everyone post-game.

Legette-Jack learned something for herself that afternoon. Don’t say “crap” to a referee.

“I didn’t know that was a bad word,” Legette-Jack said. “It’s becoming very disheartening on what it’s come to. I asked the officials that if I get to a point where I am too emotionally charged for you just say, ‘This is what I’m talking about, coach.’ I never got that opportunity. ”

But the reality is that she did say those words to someone in pinstripes, and it cost her, and more importantly, the team.

The referees gave out three technical fouls in total, two on Buffalo and one on Central Michigan.  Officials called junior forward Summer Hemphill for one as she slammed the ball too hard. 

Central Michigan’s technical was on Micaela Kelly for elbowing Dillard in the face. The Bulls received two foul shots and possession; the same thing Central received for Legette-Jack saying “crap.”

Dillard went down on the floor, writhing in pain, covering her face as she slammed her foot repeatedly. She was up two minutes later and went to the bench. She was back in the game two more minutes later. That was the only time Dillard spent on the bench.

“All you have to do is watch her and see how passionate [Legette-Jack] is,” Dillard said. “She’s a leader by example and she was taught at a young age that you have got to fight through adversity, not just being a basketball player but in the game of life.”

In one year, Dillard went from good scorer on a veteran Bulls team, to averaging 29 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals over three NCAA tournament games last season, to one of the top players in the nation.

Dillard is likely to be the first Buffalo player ever drafted into the WNBA this year.

She finished Saturday’s game with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, seven steals and a bruised cheek.

Dillard fouled out with four seconds left and a three-point game turned into five with two free throws. 

The Bulls could do nothing but launch a prayer from half court as time expired.

“The word ‘crap’ in my neighborhood has never been a bad word,” Legette-Jack said. “So no, we’re proud of these young ladies all the time, but they have to know how it feels to stand in something and believe in something and not be afraid to come from behind and stand for something that is right. These young ladies played their tails off, and they really earned the right to have success today. So I’m not accepting this loss because of what was taught when the tables changed on us, they forgot to tell me.”

Legette-Jack admitted to still trying to figure out how to be her emotional and passionate self. If it involves not talking to the refs the rest of the year then she is willing to do so. Her team was “punished,” losing the game by five points.

“This is on me and my personality,” Legette-Jack said. “If my personality is causing the team to have difficulties and have success, then let me know that’s the way we’re going to play this game.”

The Bulls won’t matchup with Central Michigan again this season unless they meet in the MAC tournament, but there will be referees at every game. If saying the word “crap” is going to bother them, then it’s something they’re just going to have to deal with.

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