For 36 minutes we got more from UB Women's Basketball tonight than I was expecting. Then the thrilling finish hit overtime, and the Bulls just ran out of gas and fouls to give.
Facing a chance to move to .500 in MAC play tonight, the UB Women's Basketball team traveled to Toledo to take on the Rockets. Looking to follow up on perhaps their strongest game of the year, Buffalo was impressive throughout but fell cold in overtime and lost 75-63. There's plenty to say on both the positive and negative ledgers tonight, but the positives are more surprising and hopefully a new look for the team.
Toledo is a good, not great, MAC West team, but the ladies' start was impressive nonetheless, the best we've seen from the team offensively all season. Stephanie Reid continues to look better by the minute, and in the first six minutes tonight had 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, forcing the Rockets to use two timeouts very, very early.
Reid would finish with 6 assists and 5 turnovers in 40 minutes, which isn't a great ratio, but 6 assists and 30+ minutes from a guard is something we just haven't seen this year.
In particular, Buffalo benefitted tonight from an excellent start shooting the ball from both inside and outside, building their 29-24 halftime lead on 41% shooting from both the floor and from beyond the arc.
The Bulls got balanced production from the backcourt, as Joanna Smith had 7 points in the first act herself. In a game where Mackenzie Loesing did not play at all, the two guards' 14 combined first-half points played a big role in building Buffalo confidence.
The second half did not go poorly, compared to other offensive performances this year, but UB was undone by two familiar failings. In the second half alone the Bulls were 4-16 from distance, including a number of late-possession attempts, which proved especially killer as the Rockets fought back to a one-possession deficit through the middle of the period.
UB also found themselves in foul trouble in the dying minutes of regulation. In the first half only two players had two fouls - but Reid and Christa Baccas have both proven critical to the well-being of this team. In the second that pairing each added two more while Joanna Smith added four and the team as a whole committed 13, allowing the Rockets to close the gap almost entirely from the free throw line.
Overtime came despite the stellar efforts of Kristen Sharkey throughout and Christa Baccas late. Sharkey would finish with 22 points - 8 in the final 9 minutes of regulation - and 9 rebounds, and Baccas twice put the Bulls up late - first with a three-pointer and then a layup inside of 30 seconds to play - before Toledo came back.
Stephanie Reid's three-point attempt at the end of regulation was a good look and just a touch strong, but with three Bulls sitting on four fouls and Toledo having erased four UB leads in the final five minutes, overtime success just wasn't meant to be.
The Rockets scored the first five of the extra period and didn't look back as slowly UB players fouled out of the game and the Bulls shot 2-9 to finish the game.
On the night Buffalo was only 3-7 from the foul line while Toledo was 26-38. I do not know why Mackenzie Loesing didn't play,
though you have to guess it's related to her continuing ankle trouble. Even with all those free throws, even one more made one in regulation, or one more available player to eat minutes and fouls, could have swung this game.
UPDATE - I've been reminded that Mackenzie came out of the Ball State game late and didn't return. At the time I was told by friends who sit behind the bench that the guard was being put through the standard concussion tests. So it might be a double whammy on top of the ankle.
I hesitate to say UB deserved to win, but for 30 minutes they showed us something we haven't seen before, and any one thing of twenty in the final stretch could have gotten them out of Toledo at .500.
The Bulls will return home this weekend for a game at Alumni Arena against the Northern Illinois Huskies. That tip is at 2:00 PM, once again concurrent with the men's game =[.