CLEVELAND, OH – Despite being the seventh seed, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team looked like a squad poised to repeat as Mid-American Conference champions as they upset second-seeded Ball State, 69-65, in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday evening.
Buffalo was in control for most of the game, leading for nearly the entire contest. The Bulls did it with defense and rebounding, holding Ball State to 10 points below its season scoring average and outrebounding the Cardinals by 11. UB was relentless on the glass, pulling down 44 rebounds, including 17 at the offensive end that led to 17 second chance points.
"We talk about our togetherness. Our oneness sometime overrides the fact that the uniqueness is special," head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "I've got a bunch of young ladies that understand that even though their individualisms may get overlooked, it feels really cool to have our oneness."
All eight players that saw action for the Bulls scored, led by Stephanie Reid with 18 points. The junior point guard added six assists and a pair of steals. JoAnna Smith had 14 points and tied a season high with nine rebounds. Cassie Oursler added nine points on 4-of-7 shooting.
March is a time for unsung heroes and the Bulls had a pair of those in Mariah Suchan and Katherine Ups. Suchan finished with eight points, eight rebounds and a season-high four steals. Katherine Ups had six points, six rebounds and a career-high six assists in 29 minutes. Even Summer Hemphill, playing at the Q for the first time in her young career, had seven points, including a big shot late.
Tied at 47 after three quarters, Reid took over down the stretch. She bank in a runner in the lane to give the Bulls a 62-58 lead with 58 seconds left. And then, when the Cardinals hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to cut the UB lead to 65-62, Reid calmly drained two free throws to extend the advantage to five. Again, Ball State hit a three-pointer to make the score 67-65 with 10 seconds remaining. But, once again, Reid knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the game.
"I think that we just prepare every year," Reid said "We had a great nonconference and we didn't do as well as we would like to in conference and placed us low, but we do shine at this time of the year. And I think it's just a long process of working hard. We're all working hard relentlessly on and off the court, and it's just coming together at this time of the year."
The Bulls will face the winner of Kent State and Toledo in the semifinals on Friday at 1:30 pm.