With their backs against the wall, women’s basketball took the floor Wednesday against the Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular-season champion Toledo Rockets (26-4, 16-2 MAC). In the first game of the 2023 MAC Tournament at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, the Bulls took the Rockets to overtime and had a chance to win on the final possession. UB fell 75-74 and was eliminated from the tournament.
The Bulls came in as the No. 8 seed, finishing the regular season with three straight wins to clinch a spot in the conference tournament. The Bulls finished 7-11 in MAC play, but still needed Ball State (24-7, 14-4 MAC) to defeat Miami (OH) (12-19, 7-11 MAC) on the final day of the season to secure a postseason berth.
UB lost six straight games before the late-season push. But when the games became must-win, the Bulls elevated their play.
“If you look at our last four games [including today], you saw the best of Buffalo basketball,” head coach Becky Burke said at the postgame press conference.
In her first season at UB, Burke led the Bulls to the postseason. Fifth-year guard Jazmine Young was the only player to return from the 2022 UB MAC Championship team. The Bulls entered the Toledo matchup as large underdogs, but rose to the occasion.
“They could’ve easily come out as the eight seed and rolled over,” Burke said of her team postgame. Burke added that she is “so incredibly proud” of how UB finished the season.
In the first half of the quarterfinal game, UB fell behind by as many as seven points. With less than a minute in the second quarter, the Bulls re-took the lead and entered the half ahead 42-40.
The second half was just as evenly matched. The teams traded clutch buckets down the stretch, and neither team led by more than three points in the fourth quarter. With 13 seconds left, Toledo senior guard Quinesha Lockett hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 68. She finished with a team-high 19 points.
For the first time this season, in the Bulls’ biggest game, UB headed to overtime.
Fifth-year guard Re’Shawna Stone scored the first basket of overtime to put UB up 70-68. She finished with 18 points. Senior guard Latrice Perkins, the Bulls’ only bench player to enter the game, added another field goal to put UB ahead again, 72-71. Perkins finished with a solid five points, three rebounds and one steal, eclipsing 1,000 career points in the game.
The Bulls’ final lead of the game came with 53 seconds left in the five-minute overtime period. Fifth-year guard Zakiyah Winfield picked up her game-high 22nd point and put her team up 74-73. But every time UB hit a big shot, Toledo answered back.
With 13 seconds left, the Rockets went ahead with two free throws from senior guard Jayda Jansen. The Bulls had one final possession to save their season. Stone took the ball the length of the court and drove to the hoop, but couldn’t get a shot off through Toledo’s physical defense.
Their season was over.
Burke gave credit to Toledo as a “really good,” “well-coached” team.
Becky Burke’s first season finished on a disappointing note, but the team still showed resilience and grit down the stretch.
Six Bulls will graduate, and Burke looks ahead to her first full recruiting class.
Burke spoke to The Spectrum, after the Bulls’ regular season finale, about her inaugural team and the impact of the seniors.
“They did everything we asked them to, they were a joy to coach and I think these fans really appreciated these guys,” Burke said.
Ryan Tantalo is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
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.