Moving on to the MAC quarterfinals after winning against #10 Bowling Green, Buffalo Bulls Women’s Basketball will now have to win against #2 Ball State in order to keep their season to live. Dating back to last season, the Cardinals have been a thorn in the Bulls’ side and will be quite the determining test on whether or not Buffalo can win a second consecutive MAC Championship.
Buffalo met Ball State only once this season on January 25th in a matchup that saw the Cardinals take full control of the game in the second half. UB struggled to defend not only leading scorer Renee Bennett, but did an even worse job from letting Moriah Monaco from getting hot.
Bennett and Monaco finished that contest with 24 and 35 points respectively, certainly dooming the Bulls’ chance of winning the game. The game ended in an 89-75 loss for the Bulls, but had Monaco been held to her season average, the game would’ve been much closer.
The best defender on Monaco in this matchup was Katherine Ups, but that night she only played 8 minutes despite locking down on the Ball State scoring threat. Ups is now a bigger part of the Bulls’ lineup again and we’ll see if that changes anything for today’s game.
Besides preventing another lights out performance from Monaco, the Bulls have other things to address if they want to win. Ball State will run the floor as much as you let them, meaning that Buffalo will have to be on their toes and slow the pace down. UB’s defense in transition will be crucial in determining this game’s outcome.
UB’s interior defenders will have to step up again much like against Bowling Green. Ball State used the same philosophy of “try to drive it into the lane first” that many of the other uptempo MAC opponents used on the Bulls. There will be situations where the guards will need Cassie Oursler and Summer Hemphill to pick up defensive assignments at the last second.
Finally, Buffalo needs a solid performance on offense from someone outside of the Power-Trio of JoAnna Smith, Stephanie Reid, and Cassie Oursler. Even if UB plays well on defense, I could still see this game get out of the 65-70 point range, which means another double digit scorer in the mix for the Bulls make a big difference.
All in all, this is an incredibly winnable game if Buffalo shows the defensive intensity that was in Alumni on Monday night. We’ll see if the Bulls will be moving on tonight or if they’ll be hoping for a WNIT/WBI bid.