In any sport, it's not every season you get to take on a top-ten team, and yet UB has gotten a spate of them this year. Beyond football's showdown with Baylor and men's basketball's halftime lead on Kentucky, women's soccer got a pair of top-ten matchups as well.
Tonight, it was the women's basketball team's turn, as they traveled to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on #7/#8 Duke, ultimately losing 88-54.
UB head coach Felisha Legette-Jack spent two years under tonight's counterpart Joanne P. McCallie at Michigan State. To her credit, Coach Jack was saying the right things before tip against a team that had won 133 straight at home against unranked opponents, as she usually does:
"We don't look at the magnitude of what they've done in the past, we're just going to continue to control the moment and play our game"
I hate to be too conciliatory, but sometimes it's just not prudent to get too upset over a loss. When you're going up against a women's team that has a whopping seven players standing over 6'3", you know some things are unavoidable. So tonight's instant reactions will be broken down into Things We Should Be Concerned/Excited About and Things You Can't Be Too Upset About, All Things Considered.
Things We Should Be Concerned/Excited About
Strong Play/Poor Shooting: I will very rarely be willing to pay for a video feed when audio is available, so I can't corroborate Sloane Martin's claims on the 1520 feed that UB played quite well for long stretches today, only to be undone by poor shooting, but I feel comfortable taking her at her word.
The poor shooting, however, is I believe I point of concern. It didn't sound like Duke's height prevented UB from getting makeable shots, but the Bulls for the second straight game shot under 30% from the floor.
Low Foul Numbers in the First Half: The Bulls trailed by just 12 at the half, which doesn't sound great until you look at the second half, and a big part of that was stretches of solid, foul-free defense that led to UB committing just four fouls in the first half and giving the Blue Devils only two shots.
Three of those four came against Mackenzie Loesing. As an aside, I know we're grumpy about Loesing's high foul rate, but I really don't think this is a day to make that point. Even Sloane Martin on KB 1520 noted that two of Mackenzie's first-half were weak, especially the third, which occurred without a Blue Devil within arm's reach of the guard.
Duke's High Turnovers: The hosts committed 12 turnovers in the first half and 17 overall, as Buffalo actually forced more than they committed today. I don't have more to add; that's just good.
Bench Play: I've been touting UB's depth since midway through last season, and you can see in Coach Jack's in-game choices that she also thinks highly of her eighth, ninth, and tenth players off the floor. Today, though, we only saw 8 points from the bench, which is not that great regardless of the opponent.
Individual Performances: This one is simple: if someone has a good day against a top-ten team, that's good no matter what. Camera Miley continues to impress in her second straight start, and in fact led UB in points (15) AND rebounds (6), shooting 6-15. Alexus Malone, well, you should know about her by now. Today she hit three triples from the floor and was 5-6 from the line, adding 5 boards and 3 steals.
The two earned praise from Assistant Coach Blake DuDonis, speaking postgame to Sloane Martin; "Alexus and Cam; they weren't afraid, and that makes you proud, because you shouldn't be. They've got five basketball players on the court and so do we."
Things You Can't Be Too Upset About, All Things Considered
Rebounding: As I said above, Duke has seven players 6'3" or taller and is one of the biggest teams in the nation. Add in their lethal fast break - and UB's expected unwillingness to crash the offensive boards as a result - and you figured that the rebounding numbers would pretty ugly: The full-time stats saw Duke pull down 69 to UB's 31, but you shouldn't really care. We've seen over all of last season and the beginning of this one how excellent Buffalo is on the boards.
The Second Half as a Whole: You really got a picture of how well UB played in the first half when Duke opened the second on 9-0 and 20-8 runs, easily building and then extending a 20-point lead. In his postgame comments DuDonis was frank; "We got away from who we are as a team [in the second half]."
Just like the soccer game against Penn State a few weekends ago, these things happen. We could pick individual numbers from the second half and decide what to say about them, but I think the most important takeaway from that stretch is the relative quality of the first twenty.
With the loss, UB falls to 2-2 on the season. In addition to Miley and Malone, UB got 8 points and 4 boards from Kristen Sharkey and 7 and 3 from Mackenzie Loesing.
Buffalo will continue southward from Durham and travel to Coral Gables, FL for the Miami (FL) Thanksgiving Invitational. UB will face off against Tulsa at 3:00 on Friday, and then either Miami or Illinois State at a yet-to-be-determined time on Saturday.