Women's Hoops Shoots For Big 4 Sweep On Monday Night At Niagara

Women's Hoops Shoots For Big 4 Sweep On Monday Night At Niagara


BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo women's basketball team (8-1, 0-0 MAC) will be looking for their third sweep of Big 4 opponents in the last four seasons on Monday night as they head to Niagara to take on the Purple Eagles at 7:00 pm inside the Gallagher Center. The Bulls have already claimed victories over Canisius and St. Bonaventure and will look to secure the Big 4 championship trophy for the second straight season with a win at Niagara tonight.

The game can be heard live on the radio tonight on ESPN1520 as Matt Mattia will get you started with the pre-game show starting at 6:30 pm.

This will mark the 37th meeting of all-time between the two programs with both teams winning 18 games in the series. Buffalo has been dominant in the series as of late, winning the last 12 games against Niagara. The Bulls last loss to the Purple Eagles came on December 11, 2004 in overtime in Buffalo, 68-65.

Winners of their last four games, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team will look to sweep the season series against Big 4 foes as they head to Niagara on Monday night. UB was able to go 3-0 against Big 4 foes last season and will look to do so again for the third time in the last four seasons. Monday's game at the Gallagher Center will tip at 7:00 pm with the pre-game show on ESPN1520 starting at 6:30 pm as Matt Mattia will be on the call.

Buffalo was able to weather a strong first half shooting performance by the St. Bonaventure Bonnies to collect their first-ever win in Olean since becoming a division I program, running away with the 76-59 victory on Friday night. The Bulls defense locked down in the second half as they held the Bonnies to just 28.6% shooting from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Offensively, the Bulls were led by Cierra Dillard who nearly recorded a triple-double as she finished off her first career double-double with 14 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals across 33 minutes. As a team, Buffalo forced 27 turnovers and notched 18 steals that turned into 29 points off turnover while holding the Bonnies to just four points off turnovers. UB led the whole way on Friday as they earned their second straight victory over the Bonnies.

The Bulls are in the midst of playing five straight games against teams from the state of New York after they opened the five-game swing with wins over Canisius, Columbia and St. Bonaventure. After Niagara on Monday, UB will conclude their five-game New York series with a game on Thursday in NYC against St. John's. This marks just the second time in program history the Bulls have played five straight games against teams from New York state joining the 2014-15 season when UB played Cornell, St. Bonaventure, Manhattan, LIU Brooklyn and Canisius in consecutive games. UB went 4-1 in those games in 2014-15.

The Bulls have been dominant over the past four seasons against non-conference foes as they own a 40-13 overall record in non-conference tilts. Buffalo is 8-1 this season against non-conference foes, outscoring their opponents by an average of 17.6 points/game across their eight victories. The Bulls started out last season with a program record 10-0 start in non-conference games, finishing 10-1 overall. Over their last 20 non-conference games, Buffalo has outscored their opponents by 13.8 points/game as they have averaged 70.4 points while shooting 41.4% from the floor. The UB defense also held 12 opponents to under 60 points in non-conference play over their last 20 games.

As of late, the Bulls have begun to dominate each of their Big 4 opponents, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure. The Bulls have been a perfect 3-0 against the three local foes in two of the past three seasons and own a 12-2 overall record against Big 4 opponents since 2013-14. The Bulls downed Canisius last week, their fifth straight against the Griffs, and earned their first win at St. Bonaventure since 1975 on Friday night. The Bulls have completely dominated the Purple Eagles as of late, winning the last 12 matchups against Niagara. Buffalo has earned at least one victory over a Big 4 foe every year since 2004-05 when they lost to Niagara and Canisius and didn't play SBU.

The Bulls have been on the road for six of their first nine games of the season and they are in the midst of a five-game road swing to close out 2017. The Bulls have traveled to Daytona Beach, FL (1,133 miles), Tempe, AZ (2,190 miles) and New York City (373 miles) over the past three weeks. UB owns a 5-1 road record this season as they have claimed victories over Nebraska, Clemson, UNLV, Columbia and St. Bonaventure. Last season, UB owned a 8-4 record on the road including a 5-2 record across their final seven road matches of the season. Over their last 13 road games, UB is outscoring their opponents 67.8 to 60.3 while forcing an average of 19.2 turnovers/game.

The NCAA released its updated RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings on Monday afternoon and the Bulls ranked 17th in the nation, highest of any MAC school and the third highest of any mid-major program. Buffalo also came in at #7 in the latest College Insider Mid-Major Top-25 polls, highest of any MAC school. The Bulls are 8-1 overall this season with impressive wins over members from the Big Ten (Nebraska), ACC (Clemson), Mountain West (UNLV) and Ivy League (Columbia). The Bulls lone loss this season came to previously nationally-ranked Arizona State, a team that sits in 48th in the latest RPI rankings. Last season, UB reached as high as 12th in the RPI rankings after they opened the season 10-0.

Despite missing star point guard Stephanie Reid for four games earlier this season, the Bulls have been able to dish out their fair share of assists during their 8-1 start to the season. UB currently ranks 2nd in the MAC and ranks 13th in the NCAA in assists/game (19.6) as four Bulls are averaging at least 2.0 assists/game so far this season. Last time out, Buffalo was able to collect 20 assists on 31 made field goals as UB cruised to a win at St. Bonaventure. Cierra Dillard once again led the Bulls in assists as she notched a career-best 10 helpers while Reid finished off her strong game with seven assists in the win. In the win over UNLV earlier this season, the Bulls were able to set a Division I program record with 28 assists on 29 made field goals. So far this season, the Bulls have notched five games with at least 20 assists and have recorded at least 17 helpers in all nine games, proving that team work and sharing the ball equate to victories on the court.

The pesky Buffalo defense has been able to force an average of 23.4 turnovers/game so far this season as they have only lost the turnover battle only once through nine games. Buffalo is averaging 13.9 steals/game which ranks 6th in the NCAA so far this season. The Bulls have taken advantage of their opportunities once forcing the turnovers as they have turned 211 total turnovers into 212 points (23.6/game). Last time out against St. Bonaventure, the Bulls were able to force 27 turnovers and they turned those into 29 points, winning the points off turnover battle 29-4. Over the past two seasons, the Bulls own a 18-4 record when committing less turnovers than their opponents.

Buffalo turned into one of the best teams in the country out in transition a season ago and with the athleticism on the roster this year, UB is near the top of the nation in fast break scoring once again. Through their first nine games of the season, the Bulls seem poised to dominate this category all season long as they own a 128-22 edge in fast break scoring. Last time out, UB wasn't able to dominate St. Bonaventure but they still collected the 8-6 edge in fast break scoring. The Bulls have held three opponents without a fast break bucket and they have won the fast break scoring category in each game this season. Buffalo has been able to win or tie the fast break scoring category in 37 of their last 41 games over the past two seasons inclduing in 29 of their last 30 wins. Buffalo owned the 270-111 edge in fast break scoring last year.

Winning the battle inside the paint has been a key to the Bulls early season success as they have won or tied the paint scoring in seven of nine games, including in each of the last six games. They are 6-1 in the games when they win or tie the battle inside the paint on the year. Last time out, the Bulls earned a strong road win over St. Bonaventure as they outscored the Bonnies 34-20 down low. On the year, UB is averaging 31.8 points in the paint and an average of 38.0 over their last four wins.

The Bulls have been known for their defense since head coach Felisha Legette-Jack took over the program six seasons ago which has helped UB produce back-to-back 20+ win seasons. Legette-Jack's goal for the team is to keep their opponent under 60 points as UB is 22-0 when doing so over the past two seasons. After leading the MAC a season ago in points allowed/game, the Buffalo defense has once again locked down opposing offenses as they are 1st in the MAC and 19th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 34.3% from the floor. The Bulls also rank second in the MAC in scoring defense as they are allowing just 58.3 points/game during their 8-1 start to the season. Last time out, the stingy defense locked down in the second half as they held the Bonnies to just 28.6% shooting in the second half and 40.0% overall for the game. The Bulls also forced 27 turnovers and turned those into 29 points. Over the last three seasons, UB is 51-8 when holding their opponents to under 70 points and 22-0 when holding opponents to 50 points or less. Last season, UB was a perfect 17-0 when holding opponents to 59 points or less and are 5-0 this season when doing so.

The Bulls have three players within reach of 1,000 career points as junior Cierra Dillard sits at 904 points, Stephanie Reid sits at 879 and Cassie Oursler has 841 career points. Dillard went over the 900 career point plateau last time out against St. Bonaventure as she looks to become just the sixth member of the Bulls 1,000 point club to do so in her junior season. UB currently has 23 members of their 1,000 career point club with JoAnna Smith being the last member to surpass 1K as she did so during the 2016-17 campaign. The Bulls have never seen three players go over 1,000 career points in the same season. The last duo of teammates to record 1,000 career points in the same season were assistant coach Kristen Sharkey and Mackenzie Loesing in 2014-15.

One of the keys to success for the Bulls over the past couple of seasons under head coach Felisha Legette-Jack has been shooting a better percentage from the floor than their opponents. Buffalo was able to do this in their last game as they outshot St. Bonaventure 44.3% to 40.0% from the floor. With the win, UB improves to 42-2 over the past three seasons when shooting a higher percentage from the floor than their opponent and a perfect 8-0 this season.

Junior guard Cierra Dillard has turned into a fan favorite as her flashy passes and pure talent has been on display all season long. The Rochester native filled the statsheet on Friday as she was able to earn her first career double-double, finishing off the win against St. Bonaventure with 14 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 33 minutes of work. Dillard's game doesn't stop at her scoring as she is one of the best facilitators in the conference, averaging 4.6 dimes/game while also ranking 10th in the NCAA in steals/game (3.6). She uses her superior basketball IQ to get into the opposing teams passing lanes and uses her quick hands to force tons of turnovers for the Bulls. On the year, Dillard has recorded at least three steals in seven of the Bulls nine games while notching six steals twice. Her defense has helped the Bulls get out in transition and score, leading to their 8-1 start to the season. The transfer has now recorded 904 career points and will aim to surpass the 1,000-point plateau later this season. On the year, Dillard is averaging a team-best 13.4 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 steals and 3.1 rebounds across 30.1 minutes/game.

Senior point guard Stephanie Reid has turned into the best floor general in the MAC over her impressive four-year UB career. Reid had a strong start to her senior season as she was averaging 8.5 points and 8.0 assists through the Bulls first two wins of the season before suffering an injury that saw her miss four games. The Australia native looked to return to her All-Conference form last time out against St. Bonaventure as she finished with a team-high 15 points, seven assists, a career-high five steals and four rebounds across 34 minutes of work. With her fifth assist on Friday, Reid became just the second UB player and 23rd player in MAC history to go over 500 career assists and the first in the conference since 2014. As a junior, Reid set the program record for assists in a season with 233 helpers and she currently ranks second in program history with 502 career dimes. On the year, Reid is averaging 7.0 points, 6.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 steals across 25.4 minutes/game.

Junior forward Brittany Morrison has worked hard over her career to earn playing time for the Bulls and she has proven to be a key component to the UB success. Morrison has been receiving more playing time as of late and she was able to produce the best game of her UB career on Friday at St. Bonaventure. The junior came off the bench and notched a career-high 14 points and eight rebounds as she hit 7-of-11 from the floor in 20 minutes of work. The Ohio native is averaging 14.8 minutes, 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds over the Bulls last five games as UB has gone 4-1 over that stretch.

Fifth-year senior center Cassie Oursler is being leaned on heavily this season and she is proving that she is more than capable of shouldering the load down low for the Bulls. The Grand Island, NY native is having her best offensive season to date for the Bulls as she has scored in double figures in seven of the eight UB wins this season. Last time out, Oursler didn't have too much of an impact on the offensive end of the court as she netted eight points and six rebounds but defensively she had her best game of the season. In the win over St. Bonaventure, Oursler was able to notch a season-high three blocks and career-best three steals across 34 minutes. On the year, she is averaging a career-best 13.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 51.5% from the floor. With an improved fitness level this season and a new offensive game plan, the senior has been exploiting her opponents not only down low but also in the open court all season long.

Senior guard Katherine Ups has been an unsung hero for the Bulls over the entirety of her Buffalo career. The Australia native has been the Bulls most consistent performer on both ends of the court over her career as she is looked at as being one of the strongest defenders on the team. Last time out, the senior was able to produce 14 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists while playing 34 minutes. The Bulls steady hand has produced 18 straight starts and grabbed 5+ rebounds in 10 of her last 12 games dating back to last season. On the year, she is averaging a career-high 9.0 points, a team-best 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists while playing an average of 24.4 minutes/game.