Nonconference play is over, and it's time for everyone to step up their game. Saturday afternoon the UB Women's Basketball team opened MAC play with a troubling 61-50 loss to the Ohio Bobcats. Nothing clicked for the Bulls, who just looked off, and have now been outrebounded in three straight despite their experience and size down low.
Coming off a 26-point night against Canisius, Kristen Sharkey was the driver early for UB, scoring four of the first eight Bulls points and keying the offense throughout the first half, notching 8 points and 7 rebounds. When she came out with UB up 17-11, Ohio keyed in and took the lead with a 12-2 run.
Through the half UB could not capitalize on their size advantage over the Bobcats, while also struggling against OU's perimeter attack. Three-point defense is one of the especial strengths of Coach Jack's already-strong system, but you could tell immediately why Ohio is so good: the ball simply flies around the perimeter, and it doesn't take long to force the defense to one side.
At the break, the two teams had played a relatively clean game, in part thanks to refs who called things on the looser side, with just 12 combined fouls and 13 combined turnovers. The most notable Buffalo struggles came in Ohio's 5-of-13 three point shooting and 24-20 advantage on the boards, while UB was 0-8 from distance themselves.
Led by Sharkey, the Bulls played well out of the break, but couldn't retake the lead and Ohio maintained a six-point advantage through much of the final twenty, extending it to eight with six minutes to play. UB finally got a three form Liisa Ups, whose scrappy play helped keep Ohio within reach, and the Bulls had a chance to get within four, but Christa Baccas threw it away.
In the dying minutes UB's defense would continue to hold firm, but offensive chances and the clock frittered away. When Quiera Lampkins converted a driving lay-up to give the Bobcats a nine-point lead with just over two minutes and change, it was the nail in the eventual 61-50 coffin for the Bulls.
Just a strange game for the Bulls, who didn't seem to play to their strengths, and struggled to capitalize when they did. Kristen Sharkey led UB with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Christa Baccas was excellent defensively with 6 blocks, but only contributed 3 points to the offensive end.
"I think I think of Christa as more of a scorer than Christa does," said a visibly upset Coach Jack after the game; "I want her to shoot more and make teams respect her."
In general, the Bulls just never looked sharp. Perimeter scoring remains a concern, as UB finished 2-22 from distance. Joanna Smith has, according to Coach Jack, been lighting it up in practice, but hasn't found the scoring touch in games.
It's the second straight year UB has dropped their MAC opener, but last year Coach Jack's team dropped their first three games before rebounding to a 10-8 conference record. More troublingly, it's hard to avoid the growing notion that the Bulls are underperforming this year. They certainly looked strong against Canisius, but as the season continues the Tulsa and Siena losses look worse and worse.
Postgame, Coach Jack noted that "no one in this program has cut down a net yet, and we need to keep working towards that goal." MAC play continues for the Bulls on the road as they travel to Central Michigan, who is led by likely All-American Crystal Bradford, this coming Wednesday.