CLEVELAND, OH – The University at Buffalo women's basketball team upset top-seeded Central Michigan, 82-77, to advance to the Mid-American Conference championships game for the second straight season. Cierra Dillard scored a game-high 30 points and Summer Hemphill tied a career-high with 24 points and nine rebounds to pace the Bulls.
"What a game, what a conference," head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "They didn't make us the eighth best conference in the country because they thought we were cute. We've earned it. We go through so much, and to know that they're being poured into, for sure, but to pour back into me, to inspire me to continue on, I just love being in the locker room with those young ladies."
After a slow start for both teams, Central Michigan used a 5-0 run to take a 12-6 lead at the first media timeout but the Bulls offense responded with a 7-2 run, capped by a Dillard and one, to cut the lead to 14-13 after one.
Back-to-back three's by the Chippewas sparked a 8-2 run to put CMU up 22-15 at the 8:18 mark but the Bulls countered with a 10-2 run over the next three plus minutes to take their first lead of the game 25-24 at the 4:28 mark. A Dillard and-one put the Bulls up 28-25 with 2:35 to go in the first half but the Chippewas responded with a 4-0 run to take a 29-28 lead at the break.
Central Michigan went on a mini 4-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 34-30 lead at the 8:36 mark but the Bulls respond in a big way breaking off a 9-2 run, capped by a Dillard and-one and a Dillard-to-Hemphill transition bucket, to retake the lead 39-36 at the 6:46 mark and force a CMU timeout. Later, a Hemphill jumper and another Dillard and-one gave UB a 45-41 lead at the media timeout. Buffalo continued to pour it on out of the media, using another 6-0 run capped by a Courtney Wilkins three, to take a 51-41 lead at the four minute mark. A Micaela Kelly three cut the lead to 53-46 but Hall answered with her first triple of the day to put UB back up 10 with 2:40 to go in the third and the Bulls would maintain a 62-53 lead at the end of the third. UB shot a blistering 14-of-18 (77.8%) from the floor, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe, in the third.
CMU would storm back in the fourth, using a 13-2 run, capped by back-to-back three's by Kelly and Presley Hudson, to retake the lead 68-64 with 5:47 to play. Dillard had an answer drilling a spot up three to take a 71-70 lead at the 3:59 mark. Later, a Kelly and one makes it 73-71 but Dillard had an answer at the other end of the floor with an and-one of her own to put UB back up 74-73 and then Hanna Hall drilled a triple on the next possession to put the Bulls up 77-73 with 1:29 to play. CMU had the ball down 79-75 with 25 seconds to go, but UB forced the turnover and the Bulls were able to secure the victory at the charity stripe.
Hall finished with 10 points, including her clutch late three-pointer. Theresa Onwuka also scored 10 points with eight coming in the first half.
The Bulls were dominant inside, outscoring Central Michigan, 54-34, in the paint. Buffalo edged the Chippewas on the boards, 39-37. Defensively, the Bulls hounded All-MAC guard Presley Hudson, one of the top shooters in the conference, holding her to just 3-of-15 shooting from the field and 2-of-10 from three.
The Bulls will face the winner of #2 Ohio and #3 Miami (OH) in the championship game on Saturday at 11 am.