BUFFALO, NY – After their miraculous run to the Sweet 16, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team received some national attention for the first time in program history Monday afternoon as they earned the No. 21 ranking in the final USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll. The national ranking for UB marked their first at any time during the season in program history.
After posting a program-best 29-6 overall record on the season, the Bulls finished the season at No. 21 as they collected 162 points, falling just shy of fellow MAC foe Central Michigan who earned the No. 20 spot with 196 points. Buffalo had the biggest rise of any program in the poll as they improved 14 spots, from No. 35 before the NCAA Tournament to No. 21 after their postseason run.
Buffalo became the first MAC team to earn an at-large bid the NCAA Tournament since 1996 and they went on to become just the third conference team to advance to the Sweet 16.
The Bulls were able to finish off their historic season in style as they collected back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked teams (South Florida & Florida State) for the first time in program history. The wins were also the first victories in program history in the NCAA Tournament as UB was 0-1 in tournament games coming into the season.
UB opened up their NCAA Tournament with an emphatic 102-79 victory over No. 6 seeded South Florida as Cierra Dillard led the Buffalo attack with a career-best 36 points, most scored by a player in a NCAA Tournament game in MAC history. Courtney Wilkins also came off the bench and provided the Bulls with 23 points while connecting on five three pointers in the victory. The 102 points scored by the No. 11 seeded Bulls were the most in NCAA Tournament history by a double digit seed and most in a tournament game by a MAC school in conference history.
Buffalo put together another strong game in the second round as they were able to advance to their first Sweet 16 in school history as they downed the home team and No. 3 seed Florida State, 86-65. All five UB starters were able to score in double figures in the win as Dillard led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Stephanie Reid had a strong effort as she netted 18 points while sophomore Summer Hemphill recorded a double-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and two steals.
With a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, the Bulls put forth a strong effort against the 2017 National Champions, the #2 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks, but just fell short. The Bulls pulled within five in the final quarter but couldn't complete the comeback against the national Player of the Year A'ja Wilson and the Gamecocks, falling 79-63. Dillard tried putting the Bulls on her back throughout the game as she finished off the heartbreaking loss with a game-high 29 points, six assists, six steals and three rebounds while connecting on four three pointers.
Dillard starred for the Bulls during their three-game run in the tournament as she averaged 29.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals while also connecting on a team-best 12 three pointers and shooting 49.1% from the floor. Dillard's 29.0 PPG ranked second in the NCAA Tournament for any player that played at least two games as Texas A&M freshman Chennedy Carter averaged 31.3 PPG through three games. The junior also earned Albany Regional All-Tournament team honors after her strong play against South Carolina.
Reid closed out her storybook Buffalo career averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. The Australia native goes down as the most decorated point guard in program history, appearing in 116 career games while setting the program record for assists in a career (681) and ranking 11th in program history in points (1,218).
Buffalo and Central Michigan were joined by Florida Gulf Coast at No. 25, as the lone Mid-Major teams to earn a spot in the final Top 25 poll of the season.