Women’s basketball advanced to the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 73-66 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Wednesday afternoon.
Sophomore guard Dyaisha Fair continued her strong play, scoring 30 points, including 11 in the first quarter, on 8-of-19 shooting and 11-of-14 from the free throw line. The Rochester native also swiped six steals and collected four assists and three rebounds in 40 minutes of play.
“I feel like we were more than prepared for today’s game,” Fair said. “Coach [Felisha Legette] Jack’s passion in her speech before we took the floor was just something else we used as fuel.”
Freshman guard Cheyenne McEvans scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds on an efficient 6-of-9 shooting. Junior forward Adebola Adeyeye provided a nice spark for the Bulls, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds in just 22 minutes.
Kent State junior guard Hannah Young scored a team-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, along with five rebounds. Sophomore forward Nila Blackford recorded a 12 point, 18 rebound double-double in 33 minutes of play.
Kent State started off the scoring with the first basket of the game but never saw the lead again. UB jumped out to an early 21-10 first quarter lead, with Fair scoring 11 of the Bulls’ first 21 points.
The Bulls lost to the Golden Flashes in the first round of last season’s MAC Tournament and on the road just a few weeks ago during the regular season, making the game “personal” for Fair and the rest of the team.
“We just lost to them a few weeks ago and we weren’t playing Buffalo basketball,” Fair said. “I took this game really personal because we lost to them last year in the tournament and that was my freshman season, and I just felt different. Something this year was different.”
Legette-Jack credits Fair’s leadership and consistent play to her willingness to get her teammates involved.
“I just think she’s the best player in this conference,” Legette-Jack said. “She plays so humble and like a teammate that you almost forget that she scored 30 points today. This game was big to her.”
The Golden Flashes weren’t efficient in the first half, shooting just 8-of-23 at the end of the second quarter. The Bulls dominated defensively, forcing ten first half turnovers and turning that into 16 points. Despite being out-rebounded, UB more than doubled Kent State’s points in the paint, with 22 compared to 10.
The Bulls’ 36-22 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the first half was their largest lead of the afternoon, but sloppy play and a foul behind the three-point line as time expired allowed the Flashes to pull within single digits just before the half ended.
UB came out of the half struggling to shoot the ball, making just four of its 13 field goals in the third quarter. The Bulls continued their dominant defense, allowing just 16 points in the third frame, enjoying a 51-39 lead heading into the final quarter.
A switch was flipped in the Kent State huddle, as the Flashes came out with high intensity to start the fourth quarter, shooting efficiently and turning turnovers into points.
With four minutes remaining, the Bulls found themselves with just a five point lead. Due to sloppy possessions and inefficient shooting, the Golden Flashes capitalized and found themselves down by just three points with less than a minute remaining. A few clutch free throws and Kent State timeouts later and the Bulls had withstood — barely — the late Golden Flashes’ surge.
Legette-Jack attributed her team’s success to game planning but also addressed the mental defensive lapses that have occurred all season.
“My three assistant coaches did a great job of scouting this game and Kent State did exactly what we planned for,” Legette-Jack said. “We have had some mental defensive lapses lately in our past few games, so we’ll need to get better.”
With the win over Kent State, UB advances to the semifinals to face Bowling Green, whom they just beat in a thrilling 69-68 victory.
The Bulls will enjoy the tournament win tonight before planning for the top- seeded Falcons. In an emotionally draining COVID-19-ridden season, it’s taken everything Legette-Jack and her squad have had to get to this point.
“There’s no game plan right now, this is a huge win for us,” Legette-Jack said. “We are going to celebrate this win because these young people are working real hard and we aren't going to overstep any boundaries. We won’t look at the game plan till tomorrow. Everyone knows how good they are and how many accolades their team collected this season.”
UB is scheduled to face the Falcons on Friday at 10 a.m. in the MAC semifinals. The game will be aired on ESPN+.
Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, posting memes on Twitter, and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills.