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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Women’s basketball memorable playoff run cut short in MAC Championship game

UB defeated by Kent State in Cleveland, Ohio in Tournament final

<p>Kent State's interior pressure forced the Bulls to double-team in the paint, leaving outside shooters open to knock down shots from behind the arc.&nbsp;</p>

Kent State's interior pressure forced the Bulls to double-team in the paint, leaving outside shooters open to knock down shots from behind the arc. 

Women’s basketball (19-13, 10-8 MAC) fell to Kent State (21-10, 13-5 MAC) 78-60 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship game Saturday morning. The Bulls led at halftime by 4, but the second half saw Kent State go on an 11-0 run, which proved to be insurmountable. The Golden Flashes will represent the MAC in the NCAA tournament winning their sixth MAC Championship in program history. 

Redshirt senior Chellia Watson and senior guard Rana Elhusseini were both named to the All-Tournament team.

Prior to today’s matchup, Kent State defeated UB in both meetings (Jan. 3, 73-64 and March 2, 67-59). This was the first ever MAC Championship game played between the two schools. 

Right from the tip saw the start of a back-and-forth battle. Elhusseini knocked down a pair of free throws to open up the scoring for the Bulls. Kent State answered back with a 9-0 run to open a lead of 7 early in the first quarter. The Golden Flashes established their presence in the paint early, which stayed consistent throughout the rest of the game. A pair of 3-pointers by sophomore Hattie Ogden and  Watson proved essential to keep the game close. The first frame saw Kent State lead 20-15. 

Elhusseini heated up in the second quarter, as her 6 straight points helped UB regain the lead. Buffalo’s suffocating defense halted Kent State, as the Golden Flashes went five minutes without scoring a basket. The Bull’s hot hand continued with big plays by both Ogden and freshman guard Alexis Davis. 

As the final seconds faded away in the first half, Watson found herself in isolation at the top of the arc. Her step-back three-pointer needed every part of the rim before falling as the buzzer sounded. The half ended 34-30 in favor of the Bulls. Watson led all scorers with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. 

The second seemed hopeful, as Elhusseini opened up the scoring once again with a three. At 37-30, the Bulls would have their biggest lead of the game. 

And then Kent State found their groove. 

What followed was an 11-0 run by the Golden Flashes, fueled by sophomore guard Dionna Gray. She came into the game a 24.1% three-point shooter. She knocked down three triples in the third quarter alone. 

Kent State’s interior pressure forced the Bulls to double-team in the paint, leaving outside shooters open to knock down shots from behind the arc. The third quarter closed with Kent State senior guard Katie Shumate knocking down a near 30-foot triple to give the Golden Flashes a 59-47 lead. Shumate finished the game with a team-high 18 points. Kent State’s 29-point third quarter nearly equaled their first two quarters combined (30 points). 

The final quarter saw more of the same from Kent State. Outscoring the Bulls by 6 points in the concluding 10 minutes, Kent State held on to their lead to become the 2024 MAC Champions.

The final result saw Kent State succeed in multiple key categories. They outscored Buffalo 20-5 in points off turnovers. The Bulls lost five more turnovers than their opponents and committed eight more fouls. The Golden Flashes’ 34 points in paint — compared to the Bull’s 26 — proved to be the difference. 

Though not the result the Bulls wanted, women’s basketball held their own this season. 

UB was ranked No. 8 in this year’s preseason poll, and this was the first MAC Championship game for the Bulls in just the second year of new head coach Becky Burke. 

Evan Hilbert is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at evan.hilbert@ubspectrum.com


EVAN HILBERT
evan-hilbert.jpg

Evan Hilbert is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. He also is a three-season student-athlete with UB’s DI cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track team. He’s a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, Newcastle United F.C., and the Buffalo Bills. 

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