For the UB Women's Basketball team, today's road contest in Kalamazoo wasn't quite a must-win, but the 54-44 victory will go a long, long way in Buffalo's quest for a top-four seed in the conference tournament. The Bulls move to 7-5 and drop their hosts to 9-4 in the MAC.
Alexus Malone scored five straight points late in the low-scoring game to give Buffalo a 49-44 lead with under three minutes to play, and the Bulls converted their free throws late to clinch the ten-point win over the MAC West leaders. UB held WMU to 29% from the floor and shot 4-9 from three themselves.
The first half was - I think - exactly how Felisha Legette-Jack would like her team to play on the road. UB played lockdown defense, didn't overextend the offense, and still managed to score points. The 27-21 lead at the break was built on a defense that forced 12 turnovers and and offense that attempted only two shots from beyond the arc.
UB got a little bit of scoring from everyone to open, and the only reason the Broncos were within six at the half was 4-8 shooting from distance from the hosts and 11 UB turnovers themselves. Those turnovers were mitigated by Buffalo's bread and butter, a 27-16 advantage on the boards.
The second half was a whole lot of nothing but strong defense, as the teams remained tied at 36-36 deep into the half until WMU took a one-point lead with five to play. When Alexus Malone, who's re-earned the 'Truth' nickname lately, scored those vital points, the defense once again clamped down and easily closed out the Broncos over the final minutes.
Malone, Kristen Sharkey, and Mackenzie Loesing all hit double digits for UB, with Sharkey adding 11 rebounds and a team-leading three assists. Seven different Bulls scored in the contest and the team defense generated 13 steals to force 21 Bronco turnovers. Miracle Woods scored 12 points for Western Michigan, but needed 15 shots to get there.
The Bulls return home next week for a pair of very winnable games. Today's win will go a long way, but to have really any shot at a bye, they need to take out everyone below them, and Kent State and Miami are as bad as it gets. Factor in playing at Alumni, and a week from today the ladies should have a strong springboard for the final push.