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Saturday, September 30, 2023
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UB celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day during women’s basketball’s game vs. Northern Illinois

Bulls lose 72-62 for fifth loss in last six games, drop to 9-10 overall

Graduate guard Re'Shawna Stone dribbles the ball in UB's Saturday game versus Northern Illinois.
Graduate guard Re'Shawna Stone dribbles the ball in UB's Saturday game versus Northern Illinois.

Ten-year-old Ella Smith wants to be a sports reporter. So on Saturday afternoon, she walked into Alumni Arena to pick up her media credential for the women’s basketball game against Northern Illinois. 

Ella Smith got to work with UB Athletics social media as a “junior gameday helper” during UB’s National Girls & Women in Sports Day. Local girls from fourth to eighth grade tried their hand at public address announcements, ticket collection, in-game entertainment and more.

“I’m looking forward to her having fun and getting her foot in the door…and seeing what [the sports industry] is like from the other side,” Ella’s father, Mike Smith, said. 

Along with the “gameday helpers,” the Girls & Women in Sports Day festivities included a morning clinic facilitated by UB women athletes, where the girls participated in drills run by UB women’s athletes. The participating teams included soccer, softball, volleyball, swim and dive, cheer, track and field and cross country. 

D’Ann Keller, UB senior associate athletic director for sports administration, helped organize the clinic. She spoke about the Athletic Department’s goal of empowering female athletes.

“This clinic gets our female student athletes [to feel that] their identity is not just being an athlete, but being a person and being a leader and being a role model for girls,” Keller said. “Having them connect with somebody who looks up to them and dreams that ‘maybe I can be this person one day.’”

Becky Burke, head coach for UB women’s basketball, welcomed the girls at the beginning of the clinic.

“I am just super happy with how our university and the people here celebrate women in sports,” Burke said. “It’s really special and I think it’s different from a lot of places.” 

After an eventful morning, fans filed into Alumni Area for a 2 p.m. matchup between UB and Northern Illinois. The Bulls were tied for sixth in the MAC with a 4-5 conference record (9-9 overall). NIU came in at 10-10 (2-7 MAC).

The first half was evenly matched; NIU led 34-33 after the first 20 minutes of play. Graduate guard Re’Shawna Stone scored 11 of the first 23 UB points. The 2021-22 Division-II National Player of the Year went to the halftime break with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. 

Northern Illinois’ offense centered around senior A’Jah Davis. The 2021-22 All-MAC forward dominated the paint with 10 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting, and 8 total rebounds. The Bulls were heavily out-rebounded in the first half — 25-to-11. 

As the second half progressed, NIU’s size and rebounding ability began to wear the Bulls down. Davis grabbed another eight boards in the third quarter, and the Huskies began to pull away. A buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter gave them an eight-point lead,  and all of the momentum, heading to the final period.

Davis continued to shine for the Huskies. She finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 21 total rebounds. The final rebound total was 51-to-25 in favor of NIU.

“We just got killed on the glass,”  Burke said. She expected Davis to be NIU’s focal point on offense, given the Bulls’ “lack of a true post player.”

“Ultimately, I think [Davis] was the difference,” Burke said. 

The Bulls battled back in the fourth, but ultimately fell short 72-62. Stone played the entire 40 minutes. She finished with 19 points, tied for the game-high with her teammate: fifth-year guard Zakiyah Winfield. Winfield picked up her 12th double-double of the year, with 19 points and 13 rebounds. 

The Bulls’ strong backcourt performance wasn’t enough and UB dropped to 9-10 overall. The Bulls lost five of the last six, with the only win coming Wednesday against Miami (OH) 81-76. Stone led the team with 22 points in that effort.

UB’s 4-6 MAC record is good for eighth place in the conference. The top eight MAC seeds will travel to Cleveland in March for the conference championship tournament. Following Saturday’s loss, the Bulls hold a one-game edge over NIU for that final spot.

In light of the recent skid, Burke said she’s concerned about her team’s position in the conference.

“We’re going to be scrapping and clawing and fighting to be playing in Cleveland. We knew that from the beginning of this year,” Burke said. “But I think it’ll mean more to us when we do make it… and [we’ll know] what it took to get there. These last few games down the stretch are going to be really crucial.”

The Bulls have eight regular season games remaining in 2023, all in conference play. Their next game is at Toledo on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

Amy Maslin is a sports editor and can be reached at amy.maslin@ubspectrum.com

Ryan Tantalo is the senior sports editor and can be reached at ryan.tantalo@ubspectrum.com 


RYAN TANTALO
tantalo-2023

Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor of The Spectrum. He previously served as senior sports editor. Outside of the newsroom, Ryan spends his time announcing college hockey games, golfing, skiing and reading.

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