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MANIC (HOOPS) DEPRESSION IS A FRUSTRATING MESS
The UB women's basketball team was so close, but couldn't quite close the deal in a pair of last-minute MAC losses this past week. The good news: It ain't over yet.
Image from ubbulls.com
Jimi Hendrix put a lot of good music into the world in his short life, but “Manic Depression” may be my favorite track from his sprawling catalogue. The song came out in 1967—a year which featured such distinctly square hits as “Somethin’ Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees1—and still sounds wild 55 (!) years later, much closer to what’s now considered jazz than rock, or certainly pop, music today.
The song popped into my head when contemplating the state of the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team, whose 72-67 home loss to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday dropped the Bulls to 9-14 on the season and 4-10 in the Mid-American Conference. The RedHawks (10-17, 5-9) wrapped this one up in the final 64 seconds of the game, outscoring UB 7-0 down the stretch on four made free throws and a three to secure the five-point win.
It was, as UBBulls.com noted, Buffalo’s third consecutive loss of five points or less, including Wednesday’s heartbreaking 72-69 defeat at the hands of visiting Kent State2—the Golden Flashes’ first win in Western New York in 10 years—and last Saturday’s 72-71 nail-biter against Central Michigan.
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Buffalo outscored the RedHawks, 17-9, in the second quarter and a three-pointer by Caelan Ellis, just before the halftime buzzer, put the Bulls ahead, 33-27, at the break. The Bulls would continue to hold a six-point advantage after the third quarter before Miami made its comeback.
Jazmine Young made a pair of free throws to extend the UB lead to 57-50 with 8:01 remaining. The Bulls led 64-61 with 3:37 left on a Zakiyah Winfield jumper in paint. Miami 's Sierra Morrow made her first of two three-pointers down the stretch to tie the game, 64-64.
With the Bulls trailing, 65-64, with 1:17 left on the clock, Re'Shawna Stone scored and was fouled. Her free throw put the Bulls up by two. Miami tied it at the free throw line at the other end on its next possession.
Following a turnover by the Bulls, Morrow drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the RedHawks the 70-67 advantage with 26 seconds left. The Bulls were unable to score again, allowing Miami to escape Alumni Arena with the victory.
The loss spoiled another terrific effort by Stone. The Bulls' point guard finished with 23 points to lead all scorers. Young and Winfield also reached double-digits with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Re’Shawna scored 36 points against Kent State, the highest total for the Bulls since Dyaisha Fair had 30 in the 2022 MAC Championship Game, a 79-75 win over Ball State. Stone is now fifth in MAC scoring with 16.7 points per game.
Which is, itself, an entry point to the manic depression of it all. The highs of great individual performances—Zakiyah Winfield is also second in the MAC with 10.7 rebounds per game3, and 11th in scoring at 15 points per game—followed by the lows of nine losses in 10 games. The excitement of hard-fought quarter after quarter, followed by the disappointment of last-second letdowns.
The pride in watching the offense gradually improve—UB is shooting over 44 percent from the field over its last six games which, if that number held over the course of a season, would put them among the top 50 nationally in field goal percentage—but, it seems, at the expense of its once-fierce defense, which has given up 75.8 points per game over that same six-game stretch. Play that out over a full season, and it's the eighth-worst scoring D in Division 1 hoops.
Now, unlike the song’s description of manic depression, I don’t think the women’s basketball program is a mess (frustrating, yes). It’s rebuilding from scratch, and probably right about where it would be expected to be (tied for 10th in the conference with Ohio and Miami, which, unfortunately, is also the cellar).
Head Coach Becky Burke has been pounding the recruiting trail, and as early as next year, we’ll get a better idea of what her vision for the team will be. Burke has been a winner everywhere she’s been, ever since she was a star high school player in northeast Pennsylvania. Better times are reasonably, foreseeably, ahead. In the meantime…
GIMME GIMME STREAK BREAKER—AT EASTERN MICHIGAN (Wed., Feb. 22, 7 p.m., ESPN+)
Image from ubbulls.com
Here’s the good news—Buffalo’s still only a game out of the eighth-place conference playoff spot, and its opponent this Wednesday, Eastern Michigan (13-12, 5-9, 221st in NCAA NET) is right in front of them, in a three-way tie for the seventh and eighth slots with Western Michigan and Miami. A road victory at the George Gervin GameAbove Center in Ypsilanti would bounce the Bulls right back into the mix.
The Eagles are coming off a 20-point loss to Toledo—no shame there, the Rockets have won nine in a row, beating eight of those opponents (including UB) by double digits—but shot fairly well against the MAC’s second-best scoring defense.
Image from emueagles.com
The Eastern Michigan University women's basketball team showed its range, connecting on 11-of-22 shots from the three for a 50 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc, but fell to the University of Toledo, 84-64, on the road Saturday, Feb. 18, at Savage Arena.
The Eagles saw four players score in double figures, led by freshman Olivia Smith (pictured above), who had 18 points. Sophomore Lachelle Austin tacked on 11 points while both senior Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu and junior Ce'Nara Skanes helped out with 10 points each.
Smith nailed a three-pointer in the opening quarter, her first in the last three contests. Earlier in the season, Smith drilled a make from beyond the arc in 13 consecutive games (at Xavier, Dec. 17- vs. Ohio, Feb. 1), the longest stretch of any current Eagle.
With her 18 points against the Rockets' defense, Feb. 18, Smith recorded her eighth career contest hitting the double-digit mark, tying her career-high previously set against Miami, Jan. 4. Additionally, it was the freshman's fourth time leading her team in terms of scoring and her 10th leading the team in triples.
Skanes has added the three-point shot to her repertoire this season and connected on two shots from beyond the arc, the junior's 11th contest with a single made three and her seventh with multiple in a single game.
Eke recorded two steals in the game, Feb. 18. It marked the seventh contest in which the center has collected multiple cookies in a single game. Additionally, with her 10 boards, Eke has recorded double-digit rebounds in eight contests, thus far.
Winnable game! Let’s bust that losing streak and get back in this fight.
AROUND THE MAC: BOWLING GREEN, BALL STATE BATTLE AT THE TOP
Image from getsomemaction.com
Your look around the conference as we head into the home stretch:
Ball State (77th in NCAA NET, 7th in the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major Top 25): The Cardinals lost a bit of a shocker at Northern Illinois on Saturday, 84-77—the Huskies’ Chelby Koker and A’jah Davis combined for 44 points on 13-of-20 shooting (Koker was five-of-six from three) and 13-of-16 from the free throw line—snapping a nine-game winning streak. BSU will look to get right on Wednesday against Western Michigan at home, where they’re 13-0, before heading into a pair of monster games against Toledo (Saturday) and at Bowling Green (next Wednesday).
Bowling Green (61st in NCAA NET, sixth in WMMT25): The Falcons had their own misstep against NIU last week, losing to the Huskies, 85-81, at home on Wednesday—BGSU’s first loss at the friendly confines of the Stroh Center this season. A’jah Davis went for 16-and-16 in that win, her ninth straight double-double (she’d get her 10th against Ball State on Saturday). Bowling Green responded with a 65-53 win over WMU, and look to keep the momentum rolling at Central Michigan Wednesday and at home versus Buffalo on Saturday.
Toledo (68th in NCAA NET, eighth in WMMT25): The Rockets continued their death march through the MAC with two more wins over Mitten State opponents this past week, taking out Western Michigan by 31 points and Eastern Michigan by 20. Toledo now goes on the road for a pair, facing a pesky Akron squad on Wednesday at the JAR and MAC co-leader Ball State in Muncie on Saturday.
Kent State (108th in NCAA NET): The Golden Flashes clipped Buffalo in Western New York on Wednesday despite allowing Re’Shawna Stone to explode for 36 points, and then demolished Akron by 41 points in the Wagon Wheel rivalry—the biggest margin of victory between the two teams in 25 years. KSU scored 28 first-quarter points, with 21 coming from the duo of Katie Shumate and Corynne Hauser. The Flashes have Ohio at home and EMU on the road this week; locked comfortably into fourth place in the MAC, Kent State has a reasonable shot at climbing up a spot if it can keep winning and one of the big three fades.
Northern Illinois (167th in NCAA NET): What the hell got into NIU? After losing five out of six, the Huskies have now won five of their last six, including shocking wins over Ball State and Bowling Green. If NIU can keep this rolling—and odds are good, with a road game at Miami and a home contest with Central Michigan slated for the week ahead—Northern Illinois, powered by tough forward A’jah Davis, sharpshooting guard Chelby Koker, and a rotating cast of characters like Sidney McCrea, Janae Poisson, and Jayden Marable, may roll into Cleveland as the team no one wants to see in the conference tournament.
Akron (176th in NCAA NET): The bottom fell out for the Zips after they whipped up on UB back on Jan. 28—Akron’s lost five of six since. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, at least not right away: a visit from Toledo looms on Wednesday, although Miami is scheduled to hit the JAR on Saturday. That game actually has serious playoff implications, especially if the RedHawks can find a way to trip up NIU on Wednesday.
Miami (252nd in NCAA NET): The ‘Hawks, of course, beat Buffalo on Saturday, with Maddi Cluse collecting a 20-and-12 double-double in the win. Miami had lost four of five heading into that contest. The squad from Oxford is still very much in the playoff running thanks to a top-heavy MAC, and if the RedHawks can string together wins against NIU and Ohio this week, they may just seal their spot in Cleveland.
Western Michigan (242nd in NCAA NET): It’s been a tough ride for the Broncos without star scorer Lauren Ross. Without Ross, WMU has dropped to 240th nationally in scoring, 251st in field goal percentage, and 335th in three-point percentage. No surprise they’ve lost seven of eight since Ross went out in January! Despite hanging on for dear life in the postseason race, WMU may get pushed off the rail by Ball State on Wednesday. The silver lining: theoretically winnable games over the last three of the season against Ohio, Central Michigan, and Buffalo.
That ain’t going to get it done on most nights, folks (in fairness, Buffalo’s not a lot better). CMU has Bowling Green at home on Wednesday and NIU in DeKalb on Saturday and, realistically, will see their remaining postseason hopes expire by sundown Saturday.
Ohio (270th in NCAA NET): Point guard Yaya Felder is one of the premier scorers in the country, averaging 20.8 points per game—that’s 13th in D1 hoops. Not a lot has gone right for the Bobcats outside of Felder’s star turn in 2023, but Ohio has won three of its last six, including a one-point win over smoking-hot Northern Illinois last Saturday. Let’s see what the ‘Cats do at Kent State on Wednesday—a win at the M.A.C. Center could set Felder and company up for a final push against Western Michigan, Miami, and Eastern Michigan that ends in a trip to Cleveland.
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The Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for The Monkees on their first U.S. tour, which must have been confusing for everyone involved.
We here at UB In 5 enjoy talking trash about Kent State head coach Todd Starkey, usually because he’s about as pleasant as a blister on the sidelines (all in good fun, Todd!) and has a unique way of damning Buffalo with faint praise in press conferences. To his credit, he had some great things to say about Bulls guard Re’Shawna Stone after she dropped 36 points on his team earlier this week, according to KentWired.com: “(She was) a one-man wrecking crew. She had everything. I mean, she was the (Division 2) National Player of the Year last year for a reason. She’s a prolific scorer and has the ability to do that.”
She’s 23rd in Division 1 rebounds per game, too.