Seeking just the second appearance in the MAC Tournament semifinals in program history, UB Women's Basketball advanced this afternoon to tomorrow's matchup with Ohio with a nervewracking but thrilling 63-60 victory over Western Michigan.
In two previous games against the Broncos, one win and one loss, UB had done a good job of holding All-MAC Second Teamer Miracle Woods in check. Today the Bronco leader scored 27 and essentially turned the game into a mano a mano showdown with Buffalo forward Kristen Sharkey, who came up time and time again for a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
In a second half that featured sixteen lead changes, neither team led ever by more than three, though Buffalo built and re-built that three-point lead a number of times. UB in the tight game had the free throw advantage coming down the stretch, though they only needed three in the last five minutes to hold off the Broncos.
If Woods-Sharkey was the main showdown, the difference that pushed the Bulls over the edge was freshman Stephanie Reid. She did a bit of everything tonight en route to 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in an astonishing 39 minutes. Her offensive rebound on her own missed free throw with 4:25 to play gave Buffalo the momentum for good.
In the first half, Buffalo fell into an early 6-0 hole, but quickly erased it with a 10-0 run of their own and led through the rest of the half. At times UB's defense was particularly strong, and at others the Broncos were able to make a run, but Western never pulled into a tie.
Other than perhaps some missed opportunities in transition and a small run, the opening twenty was a good showing for the Bulls, who attempted only three threes before a late heave at the buzzer, attempted 40 shots from the floor to only 28 for Western Michigan, and even got eight solid minutes from freshman Mariah Suchan before the buzzer sounded with the Bulls up 29-28.
WMU quickly claimed a narrow second-half lead, but the teams traded buckets and the lead deep into the second half before Reid and Sharkey were able to pull UB into the lead and the semifinals.
On the day UB found balanced production, though some shooters were more efficient than others. Mackenzie Loesing in particular struggled despite finishing with 10. Loesing, Sharkey, and Reid combined for 45 of Buffalo's points. Defensively, the Bulls only managed five steals, but scored nine points off nine Bronco turnovers while committing only eight themselves.
Buffalo advances to the semis for the first time since 2009, when current assistant coach Ashley Zuber was a sophomore. That team won three games in the MAC tournament after topping MAC teams only twice in the regular season, but lost to eventual champion Ball State in the semifinal game.