A trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan marked a turning point for the women's basketball squad. Buffalo's meeting with Eastern Michigan at the Convocation Center quickly became a tough one to swallow after the first quarter. The Eagles' Cha Sweeny and Janay Morton were a force to be reckoned with and trampled through Buffalo's defense. The Bulls' offense couldn't generate any momentum in their Mid-American Conference opener.
After an impressive showing in non-conference by the Bulls, the typical fan's morale was high. Eight games later, this morale would be put to a serious test. Days reminiscent of the one that took place in Ypsilanti became more common as the Bulls went stagnant to begin conference play. Although things started to look bleak, the 2015-16 Bulls weren't done surprising us yet.
The Win That Turned Sour
Hitting the panic button was still a ways off when Buffalo returned to their home in Alumni Arena. The Bulls faced the Chippewas and the result turned out to be a favorable one. Despite having almost four players in double figures, Central Michigan could not overcome the second quarter hole Buffalo put them in.
Rarely does a win become frustrating, but it did for yours truly. Central Michigan proceeded to catch fire after their loss with the Bulls. In the eight game stretch that Buffalo struggled in, CMU won every game except their matchups with the Bulls and the Ohio Bobcats.
Central Michigan made it very clear that they were a top team in the conference. Buffalo was falling off a cliff and made their non-conference efforts look like a stroke of good luck. Somehow UB managed a win against the second best team in the conference as they struggled against teams that were much worse. If that isn't frustrating from a fan prospective, I don't know what is.
The Reid and Smith Show
Stephanie Reid and Joanna Smith's performances by this point made it very clear that they were the top two players on the team. While facing a mediocre Kent State team, the duo seemed unstoppable as they grabbed 44 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Buffalo took home the win with ease as the Bulls remained on the road.
Smith and Reid's chemistry as a duo continued and it showed in the box scores too. Joanna's shooting percentage was up and more consistent than it had been earlier in the year. Reid — who was averaging around 9 points per game — improved to 13 points per game in this stretch. Most notably were her performances of 25 (a career high) and 17 points versus Western Michigan and Miami respectively.
Regardless of the pair's success, the team as a whole couldn't replicate it.
Buffalo dropped five games after beating Kent State in a dominant fashion. The frightening defense appeared to be no more. This conclusion was a reality after a loss to Western Michigan, where Buffalo allowed 92 points that night, a total that their offense only reached against Clarion.
Things were looking up in their game with Northern Illinois. The Bulls had a solid lead in the second half before the offense abated. A win still looked to be in sight but a buzzer beater three point shot by NIU sent Buffalo packing.
Morale within the confines of the program had to be low. When asked why Buffalo was in such a slump after their game with Miami, assistant coach Cherie Cordoba had no answers. It isn't shocking that she was confused in the fact that a team that held opponents under 50 points earlier in the season made a complete 180 degree turn. Many started to feel that Coach Jack's job was in jeopardy at this point in the season. The team was progressively getting worse. Something needed to change as soon as possible.
The Fall of Ohio
After the buzzer beater loss to Northern Illinois, the toughest challenge of the season was on the docket for Buffalo. The Ohio Bobcats had just cracked the top-25 in the coaches poll and steam rolling Buffalo was a given. The final nail in the coffin for Buffalo was ready to be hammered down.
Every fan that had the chance to watch this game witnessed history. Buffalo stayed close the entire game as both teams shot poorly. This game was the defensive slugfest that Felisha Legette-Jack likes to see. It was bizarre to see Kiyanna Black, one of the best players in MAC shoot 4-21 from the field. This was a player that could drop 30 on anyone on a given night.
Karin Moss, the lone senior on the Buffalo squad had a night to remember. The energetic guard played much different than she had all season. She shot the ball well, generated a couple of assists, and forced two turnovers. Katherine Ups had a dazzling night on the boards, pulling in 10 as she also had four points
Buffalo went into the fourth quarter with a lead and still managed to outscore the Bobcats in the final ten minutes. Ohio fell to a MAC opponent for the first time this season as Bulls fans were in disbelief. It was such a quick turnaround from the unbearable to watch performances of the last five games.
Whether it would be a fluke or not, this upset against the best team in the conference would go down as one of the greatest upsets in UB Women's Basketball history. If Buffalo didn't win this game, they easily could've made it to an eight game losing streak. Looking back, this season could've ended much differently without the morale boosting win.