An 0-2 start to the MAC season is not uncharted territory for UB Women's Basketball after last season's 0-3 start. 1-2 isn't a whole lot better, but this afternoon's 71-51 road win at Miami is a step back in the right direction.
UB enjoyed a lead throughout, but the game was won on consecutive possession in the twilight of the second half. After several minutes without scoring, Buffalo had let Miami within a very uncomfortable seven, but Camera Miley hit a three and Alexus Malone converted a traditional three point play to take the wind out of Redhawk sails.
Against Central Michigan earlier this week, UB played the type of game befitting a MAC East contender against the conference favorite, playing to their strength defensively on the perimeter while staying clean (for them) in the foul column. Continued imprudence from the arc, however, did the Bulls in offensively for the second consecutive game.
Beyond the ongoing shot selection storyline, I was interested pregame in UB's guard play. Mackenzie Loesing, who has dealt with season-long ankle issues that have knocked her out of the starting lineup, had a vintage day against the Chippewas, passing 1,000 career points and 100 career three-pointers in leading the team. More days like that, and UB can get back to being the team we and the rest of the MAC expected.
Additionally, the guard spot opposite Loesing, a revolving door for much of the year, was set to add another option as I learned pregame that midseason freshman addition Stephanie Reid would see time against the Redhawks.
We got a scare from Loesing's ankle late in the first half, when she fell to the ground and hobbled off to the bench. Despite that, she returned to the floor before the break and was a key factor in extending the UB lead early in the second half, earning a few steals and draining a three. Opposite Loesing, Miley got 33 minutes and had a nice 6-6-6 line, but did give up 9 turnovers.
Reid entered the game for her first collegiate minutes midway through the second. She didn't accumulate many stats, but did score her first points on a three on UB's final possession, and looked as solid to my eyes as Coach Jack's other options. Joanna Smith and Karin Moss combined for 10 minutes, 4 points, and not much else.
For their part, the forwards had a big day inside against the Redhawks, who sent UB to the free-throw line time and time again. At the half both Christa Baccas and Rachael Gregory had already hit double digits, and Baccas reached a double-double early in the second. Kristen Sharkey, rapidly approaching 1,000 career points, was 7-8 from the line and finished with 9 points and 9 assists.
In building a comfortable lead for much of the game, UB had one of their best statistical halves of the year, shooting 45%, enjoying a 24-16 advantage on the boards, and at 42-30 the teams largest halftime lead of the year. Despite that, it could have been much better, as the Bulls still committed 12 turnovers.
The hot start in the second gave way to the drought, ultimately snapped by the Miley three, and as close as it felt, the Redhawks were never closer than 7, getting that far thanks to defensive adjustments that cleaned up the fouls, clamped down on UB's interior game, and dared the Bulls to convert from outside. Until Miley's three, Buffalo couldn't do it.
Buffalo enjoyed one of their better shooting games of the season, converting on 44% of their shots from the floor. They once again shot poorly from three, but on 13 attempts instead of 22 or 30, as we've seen in recent games. 3-13 isn't wonderful, but during the game UB passed up semi-open looks to move the ball closer to the basket, as you'd expect from a team with such forward depth, and nearly all of the 13 attempts were wide-open, "keep 'em honest" looks.
Even the fouls weren't much of a problem, as the Bulls racked up 15 steals and 7 blocks, though they did turn the ball over 26 times. Miami didn't do anything particularly well or poorly; Buffalo was just better.
Now 1-2 in the MAC, UB returns to Alumni Arena to welcome Western Michigan on Tuesday evening. The Broncos are 2-1 in the MAC after getting stomped, 54-36 against Ball State this afternoon.