Bulls Wrap Up Non-Conference Slate On Thursday At St. John's

Bulls Wrap Up Non-Conference Slate On Thursday At St. John's


BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo women's basketball team (8-2, 0-0 MAC) will close out their non-conference schedule on Thursday morning in New York City as they will take on the St. John's Red Storm. Thursday's game will tip at 11:00 am as it is St. John's annual Field Trip Day game for local kids.

This will mark the seventh meeting of all-time between the two programs with the Bulls owning the 4-2 series record over the Red Storm. The two sides last met on December 20, 2008 in NYC and St. John's collected the 81-57 victory over UB. The Johnnies have won two straight games in the all-time series after UB won the first four matchups.

The Bulls will close out their non-conference schedule on Thursday morning as they head to New York City for the second time in three weeks to take on the St. John's Red Storm. UB enters with a 8-2 record while the Red Storm enter at 7-3 on the season. Buffalo will aim for their second straight strong non-conference season after going 10-1 last season. Thursday's game will be St. John's annual Field Trip Day game and it will start at 11:00 am. Tune into ESPN1520 starting at 10:30 am on Thursday as Matt Mattia will get you ready for action with the pre-game show.

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 will wrap up their string of five straight games against teams within the state of New York on Thursday. UB enters the showdown with St. John's with a 3-1 record against the previous four New York state foes. 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 40-14 overall record in non-conference tilts. Buffalo is 8-2 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 21 non-conference games, Buffalo has outscored their opponents by 11.5 points/game as they have averaged 70.1 points while shooting 41.3% from the floor. The UB defense also held 12 opponents to under 60 points in non-conference play over their last 21 games.

College Insider released their Mid-Major Top 25 poll on Tuesday morning and the Bulls checked in at #8. UB ranked just behind MAC foe Ball State who has an unblemished 10-0 record so far this season. The Bulls are 8-2 overall this season with impressive wins over members from the Big Ten (Nebraska), ACC (Clemson), Mountain West (UNLV) and Ivy League (Columbia). Last season, UB reached as high as 3rd in the Mid-Major Top 25 polls after they opened the season 10-0.

This Buffalo squad is jammed full of experience and it starts with their senior class of five players, Stephanie Reid, Liisa Ups, Katherine Ups, Mariah Suchan and Cassie Oursler. This senior class has accumulated 69 victories together as they are now the winningest senior class since the Bulls joined the MAC in 1998-99. No other senior class in the Bulls division I history have put together three 20+ win seasons, this class is well on its way to making that happen.

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 8-2 start to the season. UB currently ranks 2nd in the MAC and ranks 15th in the NCAA in assists/game (19.3) as three Bulls are averaging at least 2.0 assists/game so far this season. Last time out, despite the loss to Niagara, the Bulls were able to collect 17 assists on 26 made field goals. Point guard Stephanie Reid and guard Cierra Dillard each notched six assists in the loss. 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 10 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 23.2 turnovers/game so far this season as they have only lost the turnover battle only twice through 10 games. UB currently ranks second in the MAC and 11th in the NCAA forcing 23.2 turnovers/game. Buffalo is also averaging 13.5 steals/game which ranks 7th in the NCAA so far this season, led by junior Cierra Dillard who ranks 10th individually, averaging 3.6 thefts/game. The Bulls have taken advantage of their opportunities once forcing the turnovers as they have turned 232 total turnovers into 232 points (23.2/game). Last time out against Niagara, the Bulls were able to force 21 turnovers and they turned those into 20 points, winning the points off turnover battle 20-14. 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 10 games of the season, the Bulls seem poised to dominate this category all season long as they own a 134-30 edge in fast break scoring. Last time out, Niagara was able to win the fast break scoring category, 8-6. The Bulls have held three opponents without a fast break bucket and they have won the fast break scoring category in 9 of 10 games this season. Buffalo has been able to win or tie the fast break scoring category in 37 of their last 42 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 eight of 10 games, including in each of the last seven games. They are 6-2 in the games when they win or tie the battle inside the paint on the year. Last time out, UB was able to edge out Niagara 40-38 in scoring down low. On the year, UB is averaging 32.6 points in the paint and an average of 38.4 over their last five 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 2nd in the MAC and 35th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 35.3% from the floor. The Bulls also rank 2nd in the MAC in scoring defense as they are allowing just 60.0 points/game during their 8-2 start to the season. Last time out, the UB defense struggled a little bit against Niagara as they allowed the Purple Eagles to shoot 43.5% from the floor. Over the last three seasons, UB is 51-8 when holding their opponents to under 70 points and 22-0 when holding opponents to 59 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 911 points, Stephanie Reid sits at 888 and Cassie Oursler has 857 career points. Dillard went over the 900 career point plateau 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 wasn't able to do this last game as the Purple Eagles outshot UB 43.5% to 41.3% from the floor. When the Bulls shoot a higher percentage from the floor than their opponent, they own a 42-2 record over the past three seasons and are a perfect 8-0 this season when doing so.

Junior guard Cierra Dillard has turned into a fan favorite as her flashy passes and her pure talent has been on display all season long. The Rochester native was named MAC East Player of the Week for the first time in her UB career on Tuesday after she posted 14 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals in UB's win over St. Bonaventure on Friday. The double-double was the first of Dillard's career and just the third for a Buffalo player this season. Dillard's game doesn't stop at her scoring as she is one of the best facilitators in the conference, averaging 4.9 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 eight of the Bulls 10 games while notching six steals twice. Her defense has helped the Bulls get out in transition and score, leading to their 8-2 start to the season. The transfer has now recorded 911 career points and will aim to surpass the 1,000-point plateau later this season. On the year, Dillard is averaging a 12.8 points, 4.9 assists, 3.6 steals and 3.2 rebounds across 30.6 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. Reid has played in the last three games for the Bulls and in the win over St. Bonaventure on Friday, she 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. This in an impressive feat for a player who missed half of her freshman campaign. On the year, Reid is averaging 7.3 points, 6.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals while continuing her climb to become the Bulls all-time leader in assists as she sits just 64 assists shy of the program record.  

The Bulls have been waiting for sophomore Summer Hemphill to break out and prove she is a dominant post presence and she might be in the midst of that right now. The Buffalo native is becoming a reliable source of scoring for the Bulls of late as last time out she was able to tie a career-high with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against Niagara. The athletically gifted post player has been great over her last four games as she is averaging 25.8 minutes, 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals while UB owns a 3-1 record in those games. Hemphill will have to continue her high level of play as the Bulls hit MAC play if they are going to reach their end goal, a MAC Championship.

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 eight of 10 games this season. Last time out, Oursler had another strong game offensively as she led UB with 16 points, three rebounds and three blocks across 27 minutes. On the year, she is averaging a career-best 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 51.8% 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 played 28 minutes and scored six points, three rebounds and two assists in the loss to Niagara. The Bulls steady hand has produced 19 straight starts and grabbed 5+ rebounds in 10 of her last 13 games dating back to last season. On the year, she is averaging a career-high 8.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists while playing an average of 24.8 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 has produced. In the Bulls win over St. Bonaventure, Morrison posted a career-high 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Last time out, the junior was held to four points and five rebounds in the loss at Niagara. The Ohio native is averaging 15.2 minutes, 6.7 points and 5.2 rebounds over the Bulls last six games as UB has gone 4-2 over that stretch.

Heading into the 2017-18 campaign, the Bulls will be returning one of the most experienced rosters in the MAC as they have a total of five seniors and 10 upperclassmen who have notched a lot of playing minutes in their careers. The Bulls rank second in the MAC in career minutes returning as UB returns 12,413 minutes of experience. Stephanie Reid is the most experienced returner for the Bulls as she has notched 2,720 career minutes running the UB offense.

1. Miami - 13,782        7. NIU - 9,661
2. BUFFALO - 12,413    8. BGSU - 8,073
3. CMU - 11,567        9. Ball St. - 6,852
4. WMU - 10,848        10. EMU - 6,452
5. Kent St. - 10,795    11. Akron - 4,964
6. Toledo - 10,590        12. Ohio - 3,877