Bulls Look For Fifth Straight Conference Win Wednesday Night

Team celebration.

Buffalo (11-4, 3-1 MAC) vs. Akron (11-5, 2-3 MAC)

January 23, 2019

Alumni Arena – 7 p.m.

Bulls on the Air

Radio – ESPN 1520-AM WWKB/TuneIn App

BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo women's basketball team looks for its fifth straight conference win as they welcome Akron to Alumni Arena on Wednesday, January 23, at 7.p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ with Paul Peck (pbp) and Sal Capaccio (color) announcing and broadcast on ESPN 1520 WWKB and TuneIn Radio with Matt Mattia announcing.

TODAY'S STORYLINES

• The contest will mark the 49th meeting all-time between the two teams, with Buffalo holding the series advantage, 26-22. The Bulls have won the past five meetings with the Zips, most recently an 85-71 victory at Alumni Arena on February 17, 2018.

• Buffalo is coming off of a 61-59 buzzer-beating win at Western Michigan. The Bulls were led by Summer Hemphill who scored a game-high 19 points, including the game-winner, while adding 14 rebounds two blocks.

• Dillard has scored 20+ points in 14 of the last 16 games, including a span of 11 straight, and is averaging 25.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.4 apg and 3.1 stls/gm across that stretch. Dillard is currently second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25.0 points per game this season through the first 16 games.

• The Bulls have three players averaging in double figures on the season in Cierra Dillard (25.0 ppg), Summer Hemphill (12.9 ppg) and Theresa Onwuka (10.6).

• Dillard was placed on the Wade Trophy watch list to begin the season, marking the first UB player in school history to earn a spot on the prestigious list that named the top 35 players in the NCAA. Earlier this season she earned a spot on the Naismith Award watch list. Dillard has also been named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week on three occasions already this season.

GAME 16 Recap: Western Michigan

• The University at Buffalo women's basketball team defeated Western Michigan 61-59 on a buzzer-beating basket by Summer Hemphill on Saturday afternoon.

• Hemphill led the Bulls with 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks as UB improved to 12-4 on the season and 4-1 in league play.

Cierra Dillard added 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals while Brittany Morrison went for a big double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and also converted two clutch free throws late in the game.

• Buffalo overcame a 14-point, 3rd quarter deficit, tying their largest deficit overcome to win on the season.

• The Bulls were outshot on the night but dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 48-33 and shot 11-of-14 from the charity stripe.

• The buzzer-beater was #6 on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the night.

PREVIEWING AKRON

• The Akron Zips enter Wednesday night's contest against the Bulls with a 11-5 overall, 2-3 MAC record on the year.

• The Zips are coming off a 70-59 loss at Northern Illinois on Saturday, their second straight MAC loss.

• Akron is led offensively by redshirt senior guard Megan Sefcik, who is averaging 16.8 points per game while pulling down 3.9 rebounds and dishing out 1.8 assists per game.

• Sefcik broke the Akron single-game three-point record with 10 triples against Ohio Christian, while also tying the MAC record.

• As a unit, the Akron ranks 36th in three-point field goals made per game (8.3) and 60th in three-point field goals made (132).

• The Zips defense has limited the opposition to 65 points or less in 11 of its 16 games.

• The Akron offense has made a minimum of five three-pointers in 15 of its 16 games including a season-high 12 triples on three different occasions.

TURNING THEM OVER

• Since taking over the program seven seasons ago, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack has prided herself on having a team committed to defense and that is no different this season.

• The Buffalo defense has been great early on this season in causing turnovers, as they are forcing an average of 20.5 turnovers/game across 16 games.

• As a team, Buffalo is second the MAC and ranks 32nd in the NCAA in turnovers forced this season.

• The Bulls are also averaging 10.6 steals/game so far this season while netting an average of 20.0 points/game off of opponent's turnovers.

• Against cross-town rival Canisius, the Bulls were able to force a season-high 32 Golden Griffen turnovers while only turning over the ball 13 times, a +19 difference on the evening. Buffalo was able to turn those turnovers into 32 points on the way to an 84-66 victory.

• Against #3 Oregon, UB was able to force 19 turnovers by the Oregon Ducks and they turned those chances into 25 points in the loss. The UB defense forced preseason All-American Sabrina Ionescu to commit a season-high seven turnovers in the loss.

RUNNING WITH THE BULLS
• The Bulls are excelling in the open court this season, outscoring opponents 174-10 in the fastbreak category.

• Buffalo has held opponents to no fast break points four times this season, while recording at least two fast break points in 15 of 16 contests.

• Over the past two season, the Bulls have won or tied the fast break category in 69 of their 82 games, including 56 of their 62 wins.

HOME SWEET HOME
• Since Legette-Jack took over before the 2012-13 season, the Bulls hold a 60-28 (.681) record at home across 88 contests.

• Over the last two plus seasons, UB is 26-6 at Alumni Arena.

• Last year, Buffalo finished a perfect 12-0 at home overall and 9-0 in conference play. On the flip side, Legette-Jack's Bulls are 71-52 (.577) on the road or on neutral ground during her tenure.

MACtion
• After seeing two of its teams advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago (Buffalo, Central Michigan), the Mid-American Conference continues to gain respect on the national stage as three teams are currently ranked in the College Insider Mid-Major Top-25 - No. 4 Central Michigan, No. 7 Ohio, No. 9 Buffalo

*Receiving votes: Toledo, Kent State (OH)

**As of January 15, 2019

YOUNG BULLS

• Buffalo is tied with Ball State for the youngest roster in the MAC with six true freshmen.

• Buffalo's six freshmen rank as the fifth most freshmen on a NCAA Division I women's basketball roster in the country. Only 18 teams have more the Buffalo's six. 

DILLY DILLY

• Senior Cierra Dillard is in her final season in a Buffalo uniform and the ultra-talented guard has accumulated 1,749 career points across her stops with UMass and the Bulls. She finished off her first season in a UB jersey leading the squad with 566 points which ranked fourth in school history for points in a single season.
• Dillard set a program record with 43 points against Eastern Michigan on January 9, 2019, besting the previous mark of 39 set by Brittany Hedderson in 2011.

• So far this season, Dillard has been nothing short of great for the Bulls as she has scored 20+ points in 14 of 16 contests this season, including a stretch of 11 straight 20+ point efforts, and three 30+ point performances against #3 Oregon, Georgetown and Eastern Michigan. Dillard is currently second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25.0 points per game for the Bulls through the first 16 games of the season.

• The senior captain has led the Bulls in scoring in 15 of 16 games this season and is averaging 25.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 3.1 steals while connecting on 40.1% of her shots and an impressive 79.6% of her free throw attempts on the year.

• Against #3 Oregon, Dillard out produced preseason All-American Sabrina Ionescu as she posted a game-high 32 points, five assists and four rebounds against the #3 team in the country.

• She returned to the Bulls this season as one of two returning players in the NCAA to average at least 16.0 points, 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game a season ago.

• During her dynamic run in the NCAA Tournament, the ultra- competitive guard averaged 29.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals while shooting 49.1% from the floor and 37.5% from behind the arc.

• Across her career, Dillard has produced at least one steal in 49 of 51 games and recorded multiple steals in 41 games. She set a career-high with seven thefts in a win over Toledo (1/20/18) last season.

• The crafty passer has recorded at least one assist in each of her 51 career games while recording 5+ helpers 10 times this season. She has also led the team in assists 27 times during her UB career.

• Dillard has led the Bulls in scoring 34 times since joining the program while going over the 20-point plateau a team-high 25 times. The Bulls own a 20-5 record when Dillard scores 20+ points.

SUMMER TIME IN BUFFALO

• Junior forward Summer Hemphill made her first return to the court since last March on Dec. 18th against Dartmouth.

• Hemphill is currently averaging 12.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game on the season.

• In her 2018-19 season debut, the versatile scorer knocked down a career-high 24 points on the night while adding 14 rebounds to her stat line on her way to her 11th career double-double performance. Hemphill ended the night shooting 8-of-13 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the charity stripe in the Bulls' 75-69 victory over the Big Green.

TAKING OVER THE REIGNS AT POINT GUARD

• With the departure of the Bulls all-time leader in assists, Stephanie Reid, UB needed to find a replacement at the point guard spot and it appears as though they have found their floor general in sophomore Hanna Hall.

• Hall returns for her second year with the Bulls and looks poised to take over the starting duties after earning the start in each of the Bulls 16 games this season.

• The Hamilton, ON native is currently averaging 27.8 minutes, 6.7 points, 2.6 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

• The sophomore point had the best game of her career at Eastern Michigan (1/9/19) as she went 6-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc on the night, finishing with a career-high 20 points. She also added three rebounds, three steals and an assist to her impressive stat line.

• Hall came up big in the MAC opener against Ohio, connecting on a season-best four three-pointers, including two to tie the game late, finishing the game with 12 points, 7 assists, two rebounds and three steals across 44 minutes of work.

ONWUKA TURNING HEADS IN STARTING ROLE

• Junior wing Theresa Onwuka has been a strong bench player for the Bulls across her first two seasons with the squad but she has embraced her new role as a starter this season, starting in all 16 contests for the Bulls on the year.

• The Nigeria native earned an invite to the Nigerian national camp over the summer as she practiced and trained with the top basketball players from her home country. The experience helped Onwuka grow as a player and helped build her confidence.

• Onwuka is enjoying a strong junior season, averaging 10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 50.8% from the floor and 73.5% from the free throw line.

• The junior guard proved she could compete with any team in the nation, pulling down a season-high 13 rebounds while adding five points and two assists against #8 Stanford.

• Against #3 Oregon, Onwuka played 21 minutes and finished with three points, three steals, two assists and two rebounds.

• In the Dec. 18th showdown against Dartmouth, Onwuka was a key contributor to the Bulls offense as she connected on 7-of-12 from the floor, good for an 18 point outburst. Onwuka also grabbed a then season-high nine rebounds in an all-around performance that helped guide the Bulls to the 75-69 victory.

WILKINS CONTINUES STRONG PLAY

• Senior sharpshooter Courtney Wilkins looked to be more of a factor and score the ball on a more consistent basis and she has embraced that role, starting in seven games through the first 16 contests of the season, averaging 26.6 minutes per game.

• Earning her third straight start early in the campaign, Wilkins was a difference maker for the Bulls on Nov. 23rd against #3 Oregon as she netted a season-high 19 points while connecting on a season-best 5-of-11 three-pointers across 30 minutes.

• Wilkins showed flashes of being an impact performer near the end of last season as she went off for a career-high 23 points off the bench in the Bulls First Round NCAA Tournament victory over #6 South Florida. Wilkins finished the game going 7-for-10 from the field and 5-for-8 from behind the three-point line in the win.

PRESEASON PRAISE

• For the second straight season, the UB women's basketball team was pegged as the preseason favorite to win the MAC East by the conference coaches.

• Buffalo earned 62 total points and four first-place votes, just edging out Miami (OH) who notched 61 total points and five first-place votes.

• The defending MAC East champions also earned three votes to win the MAC Tournament Championship, trailing only last season's MAC champion Central Michigan who earned eight votes.

• The Bulls also placed two players, Cierra Dillard and Summer Hemphill, on the preseason All-MAC East squad.

• Buffalo also placed Cierra Dillard and Summer Hemphill on the First Team All-Big 4 while senior Autumn Jones earned a spot on the Second Team All-Big 4.

HONORS KEEP ROLLING IN FOR DILLARD

• Senior guard Cierra Dillard was named MAC East Player of the Week on January 15th after leading the Bulls to wins at Eastern Michigan and Miami (OH). It was the fourth weekly honor for Dillard this season.

• The Rochester, NY native was named espnW's National Player of the Week on January 14th after averaging 34.5 points per game, while adding 5.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.0 steals per contest over a two week stretch that included wins at Eastern Michigan and Miami (OH).

• Additionally, Dillard was named to the Citizen Naismith Trophy Watch List as she is one of 50 players on the list and the only mid-major player to earn a spot on the prestigious list. She is also the lone UB women's basketball player to earn a spot on the list in school history.

• She was also selected by local media and athletic communication offices as the Preseason Big 4 Player of the Year.

• Dillard was also one of three unanimous First Team All-Big 4 representatives.

OH HOW SWEET IT WAS
• The Bulls put together their best season in program history last season as they were able to notch their first-ever NCAA Tournament game victories, downing #6 South Florida and #3 Florida State.

• Buffalo and Central Michigan became just the second and third MAC schools in conference history to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.

• With their 21-point victory over #3 Florida State, the Bulls became the first double digit seed to win a second round NCAA Tournament game by 20+ points in tournament history.

• The Bulls were also the first double-digit seed in NCAA Tournament history to score 100+ points when they defeated No. 6 South Florida by the score of 102-79.

• During their magical NCAA Tournament run, the Buffalo offense averaged 83.7 points/game while connecting on 44.9% of their shots and hitting 26 three-pointers.


UP NEXT:
The Bulls host Northern Illinois in the Girls Day Out game at Alumni Arena on Saturday, January 26, at 7 p.m.