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2015 MAC Women's Tournament: Buffalo Bulls vs Western Michigan Broncos Preview

UB Athletics

Finally, UB basketball is back in action today.

Just a few hours from now, UB Women's Basketball will kick off the Thursday slate of MAC Tournament games with a noon matchup against the Western Michigan Broncos. Both teams were 11-7 in the MAC regular season and claim a head-to-head win, but UB enjoys the higher seed because Eastern Michigan also finished at 11-7. In the three-team tiebreaker, Buffalo came out on top thanks to their 1-0 record against the Eagles and has now been waiting while WMU played both Monday and yesterday to advance to the third round.

I wouldn't expect that to be too much of an advantage, however. UB also enjoyed the bye last season and lost in this game to Ball State, and Western has not been particularly tested in either of their first two games: no Bronco played more than 23 minutes in a win over Bowling Green, and the team was not tested by Central last night.

Miracle Woods, this week named Second Team All-MAC, will likely lead the Broncos today, while we should hope for Kristen Sharkey, also named Second Team but more than deserving of the top squad, to play her best for the Bulls. If the first two meetings between these teams this season give us anything to go on, UB's defense will be the key.

Let's review those two matchups:

Buffalo Bulls 59, Western Michigan Broncos 62: Women's Basketball falls to 1-3 in the MAC

This was relatively early, and frustrating, as the Bulls showed they could play with a strong MAC West opponent, but couldn't get over the hump to force a tie in the second half. Items of note:

  • Personnel: This was the first UB game without Rachael Gregory, the last before Stephanie Reid entered the starting lineup, and WMU's Miracle Woods was limited to just 21 minutes
  • Buffalo was burned by WMU's movement on offense; the Broncos frequently cut into passing lanes down low and converted easy layups
  • After strong work early on the boards, UB only played WMU about even over the last 30 minutes
  • Buffalo did score 20 points off 20 offensive rebounds, but undid that with 18 turnovers, frequently coming just as the Bulls pulled within two
  • After starting 4-10 from three, UB missed their final eight attempts despite rarely trailing by more than four

Buffalo Bulls 54, Western Michigan Broncos 44: Double double for Kristen Sharkey as women come up big on the road

  • UB held WMU to 29% shooting from the floor, while being judicious with the three-point shot (4-9)
  • UB forced 21 turnovers, including 12 in the first half.
  • Miracle Woods scored 12 points, but on 15 shots over 35 minutes
  • A full third of UB's points came off the bench. UB shot terribly from the line but WMU only made four trips all game.
  • Stephanie Reid had one of her weaker games of the closing stretch, but still scored seven by getting to the line.
In today's game, I think we're looking for a strong day distributing the ball from Stephanie Reid. The Bulls pulled away thanks to Alexus Malone in the road win, but were tied deep into the game despite their defense and rebounding thanks to lots of turnovers.

Look also for strong help defense in the paint: WMU found little success in the second game, but that was their bread-and-butter in the first. At the other end, being smart in shot selection can go a long way; whether it was Miracle Woods alone or the whole team, each prior game has seen WMU struggle a bit to defend UB.

In my mind, this game depends entirely on UB minimizing their slump. This is no longer the time to come out with a fury after the second half to erase a deficit and hope for the best last. At times the ladies have shut down opponents for a full forty and made it look easy and normal. With three games to a championship, that needs to indeed be easy and the norm.

Go Bulls