BUFFALO, NY – Behind a career-high 30 points from junior sharpshooter Cierra Dillard, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team (15-3, 6-1 MAC) was able to add to their program-best start with an impressive 87-69 victory over the defending MAC champion Toledo Rockets on Saturday afternoon in front of 1,899 fans at Alumni Arena. The Bulls have notched four straight wins while also improving to a perfect 6-0 on their home court this season.
With her fifth assist of the game on Saturday, senior point guard Stephanie Reid became the Bulls all-time leader in career assists as she notched her 572 career helper to break Catherine Jacob's old school record that stood since 1999. Reid finished off the game with 10 assists, marking the 13th time in her Buffalo career that she has recorded double figure assists.
The Bulls had a strong start to the game as Dillard opened the scoring with a triple and capped a 14-6 run in the opening five minutes with a layup after a great pass from Reid. The two sides went back-and-forth over the final five minutes of the first as Mariah Suchan closed out the scoring with a layup to give UB the 18-14 lead through 10 minutes.
Buffalo had another strong start to the second quarter as Dillard drilled a pair of triples and Katherine Ups finished off a fast break layup with the assist going to Reid who broke the Bulls program record for assists in a career on the feed. With the 31-20 lead, Buffalo let the Rockets get back within four with four minutes left but they were able to close out the half on a 9-0 run behind seven points from Katherine Ups to give UB the 40-29 lead at half.
The Rockets came out of the locker room strong in the third quarter as they were able to hold the 24-19 edge in scoring in the quarter. A Summer Hemphill free throw gave UB the 48-37 lead with just over six minutes remaining but the Rockets raced back and cut the lead to four as Sara Rokkanen drilled a triple. The Bulls however, didn't flinch, as they closed the quarter with a Mariah Suchan jumper to take the 59-51 lead into the final frame.
Buffalo didn't allow the Rockets to hang around in the final quarter as they were able to post 28 points in the final 10 minutes. The Rockets cut the UB lead to nine but weren't able to get any closer as a Dillard layup and free throw gave UB their biggest lead of the game, 78-58, with 3:22 left in the contest. The Bulls bench got some playing time down the stretch as Courtney Wilkins entered off the bench and drilled back-to-back three pointers while Hanna Hall finished off a free throw to give UB the 87-69 victory.
Dillard was the star of the game once again on Saturday as she was able to post her third straight 20+ point effort, finishing with a career-best 30 points, a career-high seven steals, five rebounds and four assists while going 9-for-14 from the floor and 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. The junior is now averaging 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.9 steals through seven MAC games this season.
Katherine Ups had herself a very effective game as she was able to record 14 points, seven rebounds and an assist across 34 minutes of work while going 5-for-10 from the floor. Reid finished off her game with seven points, 10 assists, four steals and two rebounds while playing 38 minutes. Hemphill continued to rebound at a high cli as she finished her afternoon with eight points, 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.
Off the bench, Suchan had another strong game for UB as she netted nine points, five rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes of action while Wilkins went 2-for-2 from behind the arc and netted six points in the win.
As a team, Buffalo was able to force 25 turnovers which they turned into 22 points. On the year, Buffalo has now forced 20+ turnovers in 16 out of 18 games while also grabbing 17 steals in the win. Buffalo won the rebounding battle 43-33 while also grabbing 14 offensive rebounds and turning those chances into 19 second chance points. The Bulls also outscored the Rockets 16-0 in fast break scoring and held the slim 36-30 edge in scoring in the paint.
The Bulls have now scored 80+ points in seven games this season, most in a season since doing so nine times in 1998-99.
Buffalo will now have a week off before returning to the Alumni Arena court on Saturday, January 27 as they welcome MAC west foe Eastern Michigan. Tip is set for 2:00 pm next Saturday against the Eagles.