Women's Basketball got back on the floor last night, finishing out their nonconference slate in style with a controlling 66-53 win over Sacred Heart in Connecticut. The Pioneers entered the game just 2-8, but after a three-game skid and a come-from-behind win over Niagara, a strong win, perhaps the most well-rounded of the year, is a good sign heading into conference play.
Cassie Oursler and Joanna Smith
First things first, the long-awaited Oursler merited the restrained hype I've been putting out. Pregame I was thinking 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks over 20 minutes for the junior, but all I got right was the minutes, as the 6-3 center brought serious impact to both ends of the floor, tallying a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds - five on the offensive end - and 4 blocks. It'll be another week and another road game before we get a chance to see Oursler in action, but 12 and 10 every game wouldn't be the worst.
Smith, on the other hand, is hotter than ever after a bit of a slump, scoring 50 in the past two games alone. Now with a credible offensive threat down low and of course a capable point guard taking care of possession, Smith is going to get even higher quality shots going forward, and if she can keep hitting around 50%, I'm ok with the idea that the team should force the ball to her.
The low post in general
To really appreciate Cassie Oursler, we kind of have to step back further than any games from this season. Mariah Suchan has grown into a strong rebounder but still has a bit to go offensively, Mirte Scheper is still learning how much of a physical advantage she really has at 6-5, and Katherine Ups, while far exceeding expectations, is still just a 5-9 sophomore making it work at forward.
One year ago, Coach Legette-Jack could trot out Christa Baccas, Kristen Sharkey, Alexus Malone, and Rachael Gregory at these positions. Oursler's entrances gives UB the experienced size that they should have had in Malone and Gregory this year, and you can see from the other forwards' numbers (1-8 in 40 minutes, 6 points, 5 rebounds) how much the new face changed things. Oursler has been practicing with the team for a full year, so there's already chemistry there, and I'd bet Tuesday's game was closer to what we'll see going forward than a onetime surge in emotion.
Playing a full 40
As I said, Sacred Heart isn't that good, but following three losses and a very slow start against Niagara, it was good to see the Bulls come out and control this one for pretty much the entire time, so much so that everyone played at least 5 minutes and Stephanie Reid only 25. This was a 20-point game by halftime, and while the Pioneers closed a bit, even UB's bench kept it well in hand for the final stretches.