In 2013-14, while the UB Women's Basketball team finished strong with one of their best MAC seasons ever, they did start 0-3 thanks to a tough opening to their MAC schedule. This January, while Saturday's loss to Ohio was a letdown, the Bulls similarly faced a conference favorite on the road to move to 0-2 in the conference.
Behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from potential All-American Crystal Bradford, the Central Michigan Chippewas claimed a 66-58 win over the Bulls that was frankly more of a contest than I was excepting. Additionally, unlike close calls against the MAC upper echelon in years past, UB was not undone by a spate of fouls. A six-point run midway through the second half gave the hosts the lead, but Buffalo was not entirely out of it until the last minute or so.
If you had asked in the preseason, when the Bulls were predicted to take the MAC East, how they would topple the traditional conference powers, we would have pointed to regular 20-point performances from junior Mackenzie Loesing. Over the course of the year, Mackenzie has been dealing with continued ankle problems and isn't expected to be at 100% all season, but tonight poured in 24 to lead the Bulls.
Loesing passed 1,000 career points in the first half and hit her 100th career three-pointer in the second. She is the 21st Bull to top 1,000 and the fifth to do it as a junior.
When Karin Moss stole the ball from Bradford in the dying seconds in the first half to preserve a 31-30 lead, Buffalo was lead by 13 from Loesing and 7 from senior Kristen Sharkey, while Bradford had 10 and Jas'Mine Bracey 14.
UB held tight in the second half, but you got the feeling that if CMU pulled away by a couple possessions, that would be it. The Chips, though, never hit the big shot, finishing just 1-17 from distance. UB further strengthened their case by committing only 20 fouls, which is not a stellar number, but far fewer than in losses against CMU, Akron, and Bowling Green last year.
CMU used a 6-0 run out of a second-half media timeout to take a 45-39 lead, and lead by roughly two possessions the rest of the way, keeping the Bulls at arm's length even after five quick points from Loesing and Sharkey. Unfortunately, UB avoided the errors that turn a tight game into a blowout, but found none of the key plays that turn a tight game into a surprising win.
I think it's safe to say that the Blue and White have shown their hand when it comes to three-point shooting, and I don't think it's getting any better. After hitting just 2-22 on Saturday, UB was 7-30 tonight. Furthermore, they only drew 11 fouls and were outrebounded 52-40. I do not immediately have points-in-the-paint numbers, but my gut, not-a-basketball-coach feeling is that you win games like this by playing to your strengths, and the Bulls have not done so in a should-win game against Ohio or a could-win game against CMU.
Of note tonight was the lineup choices: only seven women saw substantial minutes, but Karin Moss and Liisa Ups did not score. Camera Miley only got three minutes. Loesing with 24 and Sharkey with 16 were the only reliable scorers, while Christa Baccas and Rachael Gregory had 10 and 12 rebounds, respectively, but only combined for 11 points.
Like the men's team, the women remain on the road, and will face off against the Miami Redhawks in Oxford Saturday at 3:00 PM.