After twelve off days sitting on a three-game losing streak, UB Women's Basketball finally hits the floor again tonight in their final Big Four rivalry game of the season. Buffalo will look to get back on track following losses to Hofstra, Duquesne, and St. Bonaventure, and get a shot against the Niagara Purple Eagles, who haven't beaten UB in over eleven years.
The MAAC program under new coach Jada Pierce has started the year slow, with a 1-7 record, only one loss by fewer than ten points, and the only win a one-point overtime victory over Cleveland State in which the Purple Eagles shot well above their season averages from both the floor and the line.
Much like the Bulls, Niagara sports a very different team from the one we've seen the last two seasons. Dangerous scorers Val McQuade and Meghan McGuinness are gone, as are Gabby Baldasare and Kelly Van Leeuwen. The four combined averaged nearly 30 minutes per game in the last two matchups between these two teams. Further complicating matters for the Purple Eagles is the apparent loss of junior forward Victoria Rampado, who has not played after leading her team in scoring and rebounding through the first three games.
Without Rampado, Pierce has only seven players at her disposal who have seen time in all eight games. If UB's defense can force Niagara to work hard for every shot they could pull away in the second half. Unfortunately for the Bulls, with Rampado out Niagara still works through the low post in 6-3 senior Sam Lapszynski and 6-0 sophomore Kelly Stroemple, who combine for 25 points and 13 rebounds a game.
From a team perspective, this is a good matchup for the Bulls defense if they can keep the ball out of the post. Niagara turns the ball over 17 times a game, with over half coming on opponents' steals, while UB generates nearly 11 steals a game. Niagara does shoot at close to a 40% clip, in part on the strength of their forwards, so it will be key for Buffalo to work hard on the glass and eke out as many extra possessions as possible.
Niagara has video available here, while the game is also supposedly being broadcast on Time Warner Cable Sports, and of course by Sloane Martin on ESPN 1520 or ubbulls.com. Let's make this the game thread.