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Four questions for UB Women's Basketball in Week 3 of MAC play

Matt Gritzmacher

Earlier today I looked a week back and a week ahead for the men's team. Time to do the same for the women, now 2-3 in the MAC:

First, revisit last week's questions:

Buffalo Bills Women's Basketball: Questions after a week of MAC play - Bull Run
I'm trying something new with the basketball coverage this year. Every week or two of MAC play, in addition to checking with the Men's and Women's Basketball teams with postgame recaps and...

Has Mackenzie Loesing found an equilibrium? - Ehhh. I should clarify when I wrote this I was envisioning a world where obviously Loesing isn't at top game, but is in the sweet spot of "productive minutes" and "not being slowed too much by her ankles." This week wasn't a great one, even in this down season, as Mackenzie scored 28 points on 35 shots from the floor.

In particular the guard is the poster child for the team's too-aggressive nature from distance, shooting just 2-14 on the week. I was concerned when she hit her first against Ball State that she would find some confidence but not hit, and that's exactly what happened. But take out those three point attempts, and Loesing is still plenty effective, if inefficient, from inside, where she scored 22 points on 21 shots.

Can Christa Baccas score more consistently? - Apparently, no, after a 10-point week. But damn, do we need her to now that Rachael Gregory is gone.

Have they learned their lesson from distance? - Apparently, no. 10-42 for the week, though take out Loesing and it's 8-28, which while not great, is right in line with the acceptable 4-14 performance against Miami three games back. So maybe we should temper back team-wide criticism and focus it more? Your choice, I suppose.

Is anything settled at point guard? - Maybe you disagree with how much to take from Stephanie Reid's debut as starter, but that was the best point play we've seen in a bit AND it came from one player. So my answer is a mix of "It had better be," (Reid deserves the most minutes) and "I sure hope so" (I hope she doesn't regress).

Looking ahead to this week:

What happens post-Rachael Gregory?

As I mentioned in the Takeaways post, I had a 'Replacing Rachael Gregory' post lined up and just didn't finish it in time. The immediate answer, one I barely would have considered before Ball State, is that Ayana Bradley fits into that flex-forward spot that Gregory played. Bradley is a little more of a forward than Gregory, but is the only player on the team that can fit it.

I barely would have considered it, because Ayana's gotten so few minutes this year: she saw more time against Ball State than the previous 10 games combined. Maybe the answer is as simple as "now Bradley plays more," but I don't think this is settled after one game. Keep an eye on it.

Can Stephanie Reid keep it up?

Among those of us - editors and commenters - on the site who do follow along with Women's Basketball, I'm probably the most optimistic and effusive. I know that. I know that Stephanie Reid's performance in her first start wasn't stellar, but I do think it's fair to say it's the best point guard play we've gotten in a half dozen games, at least. Here's hoping that it becomes the norm - or even better, is just a baseline as she gets more into the flow of things - and that we don't return to more uncertainty in the backcourt.

Are we getting The Truth back?

Alexus Malone finished the OOC slate with ten consecutive double-digit scoring performances and more double-doubles than Justin Moss on the men's side, but has struggled in the start of MAC play, especially on the glass, where she averaged only 4 rebounds a game through UB's 1-3 start.

Even though Malone scored just 8 points in the win over Ball State, she did pull down 13 rebounds, her most since Niagara in late November, and to the eye test looked much more involved on both ends of the floor. Kristen Sharkey is excellent, but simply cannot do it all. Getting Malone back up to speed will be big as the Bulls try to build a winning MAC slate.

Has the defense turned a corner?

Last year, it was the defense that stiffened midway through the season and propelled UB to a 10-8 record in the MAC. There's been plenty of negatives in the last half-dozen games, but the defense hasn't been up to last year's level.

Two games are not in their own right meaningful, but if this year's team follows a similar course, we should look to this past week as the start of the defense finding itself. Both WMU and Ball State were held to below .92 PPP and below-average rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor.

Looking at UB themselves, in neither game did the Bulls commit more than 15 fouls. In the first 14 games, UB never committed fewer than 16 fouls, and this week did that twice. Two games does not make a trend, but it could be the start of one.

Go Bulls.

Game Leaders

Player vs WMU vs BSU
Points Mackenzie Loesing (18) Kristen Sharkey (17)
Rebounds Kristen Sharkey (13) Kristen Sharkey, Alexus Malone (13)
Assists Alexus Malone (4) Christa Baccas, Stephanie Reid, Mackenzie Loesing (2)
Blocks Christa Baccas (1) Mackenzie Loesing, Kristen Sharkey (1)
Steals Alexus Malone, Christa Baccas (2) Ayana Bradley (4)