1. Once we let the defense go, the win slipped away.
I am no longer a fan of us playing uptempo ball. After seeing the WMU game I was already skeptical of it. For the first half, Buffalo looked like they were back to playing with a tough to handle pressure defense once again. This was the kind of defense that is going to shut down teams like Ohio and this Ball State team that we just lost another close one to. Once we let the tempo speed up, it seemed like the defense suffered.
2. Scoring distribution is getting better
We no longer only have the one-two punch of Joanna Smith and Stephanie Reid. The past few games have seen Oursler (with the exception of Ohio) and Wilkins start contributing more. Oursler seems to be figuring out her role when Buffalo is playing with a "defense first" attitude which is something that was a struggle when she started playing for us.
Player of the Game: Cassie Oursler
Usually I'd go with Joanna Smith because she is just too good. Anyways, I think Oursler is the clear next choice in this one. She played exceptional defense (5 blocks!) and a double-double wasn't out of reach. Add in the fact that she had no turnovers and that's a deal breaker for me.
1. Not necessarily a heartbreaker: Strength of Opponent (Team)
You tell me a week ago UB would go 1-1 against Ohio and Ball State, and I'm thrilled that the Bulls have shown they can go against the top of the MAC still. That's what happened, and really UB controlled six and half quarters against two of the conference's best three teams. I'm ok with that given the ups and downs of this team since 1 January.
2. Not necessarily a heartbreaker: Strength of Opponent (Individual)
Joanna Smith is very, very good for UB. She's got a Sharkey-like ability to take over stretches. But she's not an all-conference superstar on the level of Nathalie Fontaine, and even five straight points going into the final minute wasn't enough to overcome not just Fontaine's tremendous second half, but Ball State's secondary firepower. This was Javon McCrea circa 2014 waking up at halftime and willing a team to victory, and there's no shame in that.
3. Heartbreaker: Closing it out
Given all of that, a 14 point lead with 14 minutes to go has to be a win. UB was rolling. Sloane Martin exclaimed that the Bulls were 'playing out of their minds right now.' The last four minutes of the third quarter, though, saw a 13-2 Ball State run - on six points, three rebounds, a steal, and an assist from Fontaine - and UB scored just four points in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. That is perhaps the sign of a young team, but it's got to be different for one who prides itself on defense.
Non-Smith, Non-Oursler Player of the Game: Gabi Bade
In time, we'll want more, but this was a good line from the freshman: six points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. There maybe wasn't a need to take seven attempts from distance, but she didn't commit a foul and is hopefully growing more comfortable in the lineup as she starts and gets more minutes.