DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Behind a Buffalo career-high 25 points from junior guard Cierra Dillard, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team (3-0, 0-0 MAC) claimed the gutsy road victory over Big Ten member Nebraska on Thanksgiving day in the San Juan Shootout in Daytona Beach, FL. Dillard put on a show inside the Ocean Center as she filled the stat sheet with 25 points, six steals, three assists and three rebounds as UB improved to 3-0 for their third straight season. The win also marked the Bulls first-ever win against a Big Ten opponent.
The deciding factor in the game came at the charity stripe on Thursday as the Bulls had their best shooting game of the season from the free throw line, going 22-for-27, while the Cornhuskers struggled, going 10-for-22.
Buffalo was able to get out to a blazing start on Thursday afternoon as they gathered the 8-0 lead a minute in behind a pair of triples from Cierra Dillard and Katherine Ups and a jumper from Cassie Oursler. The Cornhuskers were able to get back into the game as they connected on three triples over the next couple minutes to cut the UB lead to 10-9. Buffalo then responded with three shots from deep, a pair from Katherine Ups and one from Dillard, to give UB the 21-11 edge. The Huskers ended the first quarter with back-to-back three's as UB held the 23-19 lead through 10 minutes.
The Cornhuskers got out to a quick start in the second quarter as they were able to tie the game, 25-25, as they connected on three layups. Buffalo responded with a quick 5-0 run to extend the lead back out to 30-25 as Dillard drilled a step back triple. Nebraska cut the lead to one midway through the quarter but Theresa Onwuka made a nice hustle play and converted on a layup to give UB the 34-31 lead. Katherine Ups scored four straight and Dillard knocked down a free throw to give UB the 39-37 lead at halftime.
The third quarter didn't start out like the Bulls had hoped as the Cornhuskers went on an 11-2 run to open things up before Dillard connected on a triple and Oursler finished off a layup after a great feed from Hanna Hall. Summer Hemphill was then able to notch back-to-back buckets for the Bulls to tie the game, 50-50. After a Nebraska jumper, Hall was able to connect on her first career bucket as she made a deep jumper. The Cornhuskers made a free throw in the final seconds to send the game to the fourth quarter with Nebraska clinging to the 56-55 lead.
The teams went back-and-forth to start the fourth period before four straight free throws from the Cornhuskers gave Nebraska the 66-62 lead. Buffalo wouldn't let Nebraska get any further ahead as they were able to respond with a 7-0 run of their own to take the 69-66 lead as Hemphill drilled a jumper and Dillard nailed a triple and a pair of free throws. After a Katherine Ups jumper, Dillard was able to record a steal and threw a perfect pass ahead to Hall who finished off the fast break layup to force a Nebraska timeout with UB leading 73-67 with three minutes remaining. The Cornhuskers tried getting back into the game as they finished off a layup but Dillard finished off the game with a floater in the lane and Hall notched a pair of free throws to give UB the nine points lead and eventual 82-72 victory.
Dillard led all scorers with 25 points as she went 7-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-11 from deep. The Rochester native was also all over the floor defensively as she snagged a season-best six steals but senior Katherine Ups had a career game for the Bulls as she went 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-6 from deep as she netted 18 points. Ups finished off her strong game playing 32 minutes while also grabbing five rebounds in the win.
Oursler had a strong game down low for the Bulls as she netted 14 points and two rebounds while Hemphill came off the bench and produced 11 points, seven rebounds and a block in the win. Hall played great off the bench in her first extended appearance of her career as she netted six points, two assists and a rebound across 16 minutes of work. Theresa Onwuka finished off her game with three points, six rebounds and a steal.
For the game, the Bulls were able to shoot 42.6% from the floor and 81.5% from the charity stripe while holding Nebraska to just 38.8% from the floor and 45.5% from the free throw line. UB was also able to cut down on their turnovers as they committed 11 while the Cornhuskers coughed it up 15 times, leading to 13 Buffalo points. Nebraska was able to hold the slim 42-40 edge in rebounds in the loss.
The Bulls will wrap up play at the San Juan Shootout on Friday evening as they take on the Clemson Tigers at 6:30 pm inside the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL. The pre-game show with Matt Mattia can be heard at 6:00 pm on Friday on ESPN1520.