Twenty-five second half points from freshman guard Georgia Woolley kept the Bulls in front of Ball State for most of the second half, and Buffalo held on to a narrow lead to defeat the Cardinals 79–75 in the MAC Championship game. It is Buffalo’s third MAC Championship (second championship in the last 3 MAC Championships) and fourth NCAA tournament appearance, all coming under head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
Woolley, from Australia, only managed to score four points in the first half, as junior guard Dyaisha Fair’s 19 points helped the Bulls to take a 38–37 lead at halftime. Fair also became the team’s all-time leading scorer in the first half.
But the second half belonged to Woolley, the MAC Freshman of the Year, who was on fire, as she shot 9-for-13 including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, and and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. She scored 17 of the team’s 26 points in the fourth quarter as Buffalo clung to a small lead. It was one of many highlights this year for Woolley (so far); including scoring 23 points in 13 minutes against Niagara; her buzzer beating running hook shot to defeat Virginia Commonwealth; and her 30 points against Eastern Michigan. But given the magnitude of today’s game, the second half and particularly the fourth quarter has to rank as Woolley’s finest moment.
Fair wasn’t sitting idle in the second half, as she picked up 11 points to finish with 30 points. That makes her the first player to score 2,000 points for the Bulls.
Buffalo couldn’t pull away from the Cardinals, but still had small leads most of the second half. Two free-throws by Fair with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter gave the Bulls their largest lead of the second half at 8 points. The lead was still at 7 with 2:26 left, but then it seemed as if disaster struck as the Bulls committed turnovers on three straight possessions, and Ball State narrowed the lead to 2.
On the next possession, Fair drove left and several Ball State defenders went with her. Fair gave the ball to Woolley, moving right, who found herself wide open around the free throw line and she nailed the jumper with 0:32 left to give Buffalo a four point lead. After two quick free-throws by the Cardinals, Woolley answered with two free-throws of her own and the lead was back to 4. A Ball State three pointer clanged off the rim, Woolley grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made both free-throws with 13 seconds left, putting the game out of reach.
Let the confetti down from the rafters!
The Bulls will find out their opponent in the NCAA Tournament when the selection show airs on Sunday, March 13, 2022 on ESPN at 8pm.
Play of the Game™: With the Bulls leading 65–63 with about 4:50 left, Woolley received a pass in the right corner but time was running out on the shot clock. She tried to drive into the lane, but that path was cut off. Woolley then turned around 360° and launched a fadeaway jump shot, that hit the top right corner of the backboard (you know there’s a white line around the edge of the backboard, the ball actually hit the white line at the top right corner of the backboard) and then went in.
- Fair was not aware she was the team’s all-time leading scorer until she was asked about it in the post-game press conference, which you can watch here. Fair was also named the Tournament MVP.
- Sixth year forward Summer Hemphill had 13 rebounds and senior forward Ade Adeyeye had 12. Buffalo out-rebounded Ball State 42–34.
- Fair had six assists and junior guard Dominique Camp had 5.
- Buffalo shot 8-for-12 in the fourth quarter, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc and 8-for-8 from the free throw line, to maintain their slim lead.
- Before the arrival of Felisha Legette-Jack, the Buffalo women’s basketball program was moribund (yes, that’s a word), never having won a championship in the MAC, no NCAA appearances, and only twice did Buffalo finish above 0.500 in the MAC. Legette-Jack recently recorded her 200th career win at Buffalo, making her the first UB coach to reach that mark.