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Depth reigns supreme as Buffalo Bulls Women's Basketball advances to first-ever MAC final with 88-87 upset of Akron

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UB Athletics

UB Women's Basketball wasn't supposed to here, at least not with this group of women.

After going from one of the deepest frontcourts in the conference in January 2015 to one of the youngest teams in the country by October 2016, the Bulls weren't supposed to advance to the MAC Semifinal for the second straight year and third time in school history.

Even after upsetting them twice in the regular season, the eighth-seeded UB wasn't supposed to beat frontrunner Ohio, sitting on a bye in the quarterfinal.

In today's 88-87 win over fifth-seeded Akron, who beat Buffalo twice in the regular season, the Bulls weren't supposed to hang with the Zips' desired pace and outside shooting. They weren't supposed to hit the half within two - or the final quarter within a single - possessions after Akron came out blazing from three. (The Zips would finish with 15 made threes). And they certainly weren't supposed to survive losing sophomore point guard Stephanie Reid to her fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

But the Bulls hit plenty of shots themselves, effectively slowed the game down to their preference after halftime, and got a performance we'll be talking about for a long time from Reid's replacement, freshman Gabi Bade, to stay in the game and incredibly take the lead in the final minutes, holding on as the Zips found their range from distance once again.

Reid scored 13 before her disqualification, the final two fouls coming on a questionable call and subsequent technical for back talk, and First Team All-MAC star Joanna Smith put in 18, but it was depth like UB fans have not seen all year that spurred the Bulls, as Cassie Oursler, Brittany Morrison, Bade, and Mariah Suchan all hit or came within a basket of double figures.

Bade was the star, hitting a number of big threes in the second half and finishing with 13 points, 2 assists, and a steal in 17 minutes of desperately needed sub time. Mariah Suchan was a narrow second, with 11 points and 6 rebounds, including a huge putback in the final possessions and a strong 4-4 showing from the free throw line. Ayoleka Sodade played big fourth-quarter minutes and iced the game in quite literally the final seconds with a putback of her own that proved necessary as Hannah Plybon hit a futile buzzer beater to close the game.

It was the style of game that UB shouldn't - and frankly hasn't - be able to win: played in the 70s, let alone the 80s, with nearly 30 attempts from distance and against three separate Zips who topped 20 points. Most damningly, the Bulls were grossly outrebounded. Read the box score wrong. This was actually again in Buffalo's favor by a long way!

And yet, there they were, up by six with 90 seconds to play, four with five seconds to play and here they are now, in their first-ever MAC Final. This afternoon we'll learn whether it's Eastern or Central Michigan opposite the Bulls in tomorrow's championship bout.