For three quarters, Buffalo Women's Basketball held Ball State's Nathalie Fontaine mostly in check while playing the home team even.
The fourth was decidedly different in Ball State's 68-63 win, as the Cardinals move to 8-0 at home this season.
Over a five minute stretch bridging the final quarter break, the Cardinals spurred an 11-3 run to seize control, but UB roared back to get within one point in the final minute and give Joanna Smith a chance to send the game to overtime on UB's final shot.
The strong look from the wing hit the back iron and sealed UB's fate, but the fight to turn the momentum late has this writer encouraged.
UB's success was surprisingly built on the three ball, and Joanna Smith led all scorers with 21 points. Despite nine made triples, at the end of the day, the Bulls lost this one by failing to get to the line - or inside very much at all - as they were just 4-6 from the charity stripe, and failed to slow Ball State's secondary options.
That said, UB did a great job on the offensive boards, pulling down 15 and actually winning the rebounding battle against one of Ball State's strongest units.
Aside from Fontaine's 13 and 11 rebounds, Ball State also got double digits from Jill Morrison and Renee Bennett. Buffalo got solid production from Liisa Ups and Stephanie Reid, but did not find the clear #2 option on offense they need to match a high scoring outfit like Ball State.
Until the final minutes, this one was a clear demonstration of the difference between a good UB team looking to contend for a MAC Tournament bye and a deep, experienced Ball State group looking to roll to a championship, but UB's fight lte should be encouraging.
The Bulls have now already faced for my money the three best teams in the West Division and will have plenty of chances to win games provided they can compete through the fourth quarter like they did tonight.
UB returns home this Saturday to take on Akron in the first half of a women's-men's doubleheader in Alumni Arena.