After five games, the Buffalo Bulls couldn't seem to make any headway. That changed with a shocking 51-43 upset win over the Ohio Bobcats. The Bobcats were hands down the best team in the conference and hadn't lost to MAC competition until they visited Alumni Arena. Things were starting to look up for the freshmen and sophomore ladened team yet again.
Was It A Fluke?
Despite taking down the top team in the conference and grabbing Coach Jack's 200th career win, the Bulls continued to struggle. Buffalo lost three of their next four games and it wouldn't be much longer until this win also turned sour. The changes that were clearly being made to bring back the magic from earlier in the season. Unfortunately, nothing was working.
After another close loss to the Ball State Cardinals the change kept coming. Felisha Legette-Jack would make her eighth change of the season to the starting lineup. After inserting freshman Gabi Bade following the buzzer beater loss to Northern Illinois, Jack went further. She would make a questionable lineup change by swapping out Cassie Oursler with Mirte Scheper. The freshman from Netherlands did a wonderful job filling in at the beginning of the season until Oursler became eligible again, but it was clear to many that the Grand Island native deserved the start.
With these changes in hand, Buffalo still wasn't able to get out of it's rut. The Bulls would drop their game with Toledo and couldn't keep up with their offense. The lone win in this stretch of four games came on a trip to Bowling Green. Stephanie Reid unleashed havoc and scored 14 points in the second quarter alone. Buffalo's now rare defense also returned for a single game as the Bulls held the Falcons to 50 points.
Brittany Morrison: The Missing Piece
Before arriving to Buffalo, Brittany Morrison was considered undersized to all of the schools that gave her a look. The Forward from North Ridgeville, Ohio is only 5-9. Even with this disadvantage, her coach still thought that she should be playing Division I basketball.
Morrison struggled to get an offer but thanks to her coach's networking, it soon came. She didn't imagine coming to Buffalo, but gave the school a chance after hearing from the coaching staff. The recruit soon took a trip to UB's campus and days later was offered. She accepted the offer without any hesitation.
For the majority of the 2015-16 season, Morrison had single digit minutes in many games she played in. She also didn't play in three of the four games prior to Buffalo's matchup with Eastern Michigan. Although the Bulls lost that night, Brittany showed what she had to offer for the rest of the season. The freshman collected a double-double thanks to her 13 points and 11 rebounds.
After the Eastern Michigan game, Buffalo finally had a set lineup. When Morrison and Oursler were inserted, the team never strayed away from a starting five that also included Joanna Smith, Stephanie Reid, and Katherine Ups. Brittany Morrison impressed everyone for the rest of the season with her rebounding skills and her defense. The missing piece had finally been placed.
The Defense Returns and Ohio's Second Collapse
Despite winning in their last meeting, Buffalo still remained the major underdog when they travelled to Athens. The Bobcats' only loss at this point in time were to the Bulls and they were hungry for revenge. UB was coming off two big wins over Miami and Bowling Green. The game against the Falcons proved to be a defensive slugfest as the Bulls eked out a 55-52 win and all but secured a home playoff game.
The defense was back from the dead and in a matchup with Ohio, it stayed alive. Once again, Kiyanna Black seemed flustered as the matchup zone gave her troubles right out of the gate. The usual dominance of Joanna Smith — who scored 21 on the night — would be complemented by the Aussie duo of Stephanie Reid and Katherine Ups. Reid had a spectacular night almost reaching a triple-double with her 21 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.
Most surprising was the resurgence of Katherine Ups as the clear #3 in this game. In the last meeting with Ohio, senior Karin Moss stole the show as the surprise player that stepped up. After struggling mid-season, the Wollongong native was the surprise this time around. Ups finished the night with 12 points and little did everyone know that this was only the beginning of a late season reawakening for the sophomore.
The Bulls may have followed up this game with a loss to Akron, but that was more or less due to a lack of offense. In their final regular season matchup, Buffalo crushed the Golden Flashes of Kent State. The second half was played almost entirely with the bench. If the Bulls played with their normal strength, Kent would've been lucky to score more than 35 points.
Buffalo finished MAC play with an 8-10 record with four of those wins coming in the last six games. Things were looking much better coming into the postseason as the Bulls were playing their best basketball thanks to dominance on the boards. The Bulls received a home playoff game in the MAC tournament as the #8 seed.
No one could've believed what was about to unfold.