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THE AGONY & THE ECSTASY
MAC play has begun, and the UB hoops teams' road to Cleveland is already a wild ride. More to come today!
Image from ubbulls.com
The University at Buffalo men’s and women’s basketball teams opened Mid-American Conference play this week, and we’re already off to a wild start. Consider:
The men’s team (7-7 overall, 1-0 in the MAC) beat visiting Ohio, 75-72, on Tuesday after the Bulls saw its 10-point lead with at the 10:40 mark of the second half whittled down to a two-point nub with 12 seconds left in the game. A pair of Bobcats three-point attempts in the final eight seconds came up just short.
The women’s team (5-5, 0-1) lost to Kent State, the 13th-ranked program in the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Top 25, 63-62, on the road at the M.A.C. Center when the Golden Flashes’ Clare Kelly answered Buffalo’s Zakiyah Winfield’s go-ahead basket with four seconds left in the fourth quarter by delivering a game-winning layup with just a second remaining.
Only 34 more of these to go.
The Agony: UB Women Lose Upset Bid At Last Possible Moment
Image from beaconjournal.com
Loss aside, the UB women’s basketball team put the Mid-American Conference on notice in it’s one-point loss at Kent State.
The Bulls came into this game on a four-game winning streak, but it was easy for the skeptic to question to the quality of opponent—Niagara, LIU, Bucknell, and St. Bonaventure have a combined average NCAA NET ranking of 294 out of 361 Division 1 women’s basketball teams.
With the exception of the 32-point win over Long Island, UB’s wins were not particularly smooth and easy, either. If the Golden Flashes (9-3, 1-0) won this game by 20, it would have been far less surprising than the outcome we eventually saw.
But KSU didn’t win by 20. KSU probably shouldn’t have won at all.
Buffalo—down by seven at 6:32 of the second quarter—took the lead just over two minutes later and didn’t fall behind again until there was just 1:32 left in the game. The lead changed three times in those final 92 seconds, starting with a Hannah Young three-pointer that put the Flashes up, 62-61; a short jumper from Buffalo’s Zakiyah Winfield with four seconds on the clock to move the Bulls ahead, 63-62; and Kelly’s game-winning drive and score with a single tick before the buzzer.
Should Kelly (pictured above) have been whistled for a charge? Maybe! Probably a good no-call—if it happened the other way, I’d have been enraged if UB was hit with a foul—but it certainly wasn’t a graceful take.
Three Bulls scored in double figures, led by fifth year guard Re'Shawna Stone who scored a UB career-high and game-high 21 points to go with five assists and three steals. Fellow fifth year Jazmine Young scored 14 points while Zakiyah Winfield recorded her eighth double-double of the season, and narrowly missed out on a triple double, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Buffalo shot 50% from the floor and dominated the paint, outscoring Kent State 44-28 inside, while also forcing 18 turnovers and scoring 16 points off those miscues but the Golden Flashes had the 35-29 edge on the glass, including 12 offensive rebounds which they converted into 22 second chance points.
KSU Head Coach Todd Starkey, king of the passive aggressive compliment, had this to say after the game about those paint points:
To be honest with you it is unacceptable and we have to get better at that and we will. Credit to them, they did a good job of attacking us, but we have to be better. That is a team that should not put up 44 points in the paint.
Thanks, Todd! Lindsey Thall, a fifth-year senior forward who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, was also a bit glib:
They were getting downhill and we weren’t really helping each other out and were leaving each other out on an island, guarding people one-on-one. We knew they were gonna do that coming into the game, but obviously we will have to take what they did to us and learn from it.
Hurts to lose, but nice to know Buffalo women’s basketball still has real estate in Kent State’s collective head.
“We aren’t scared of anyone”
Image from ubbulls.com
Here was the real difference: the Bulls shot three-of-11 from three, while KSU made 11 of 30 attempts. This is not a recommendation for UB to start indiscriminately bombing away, but that’s something that needs to balance out. Kent State made five second-half threes, and those makes allowed them to stay in the game.
The other killer? Free throws. Buffalo was six-of-12 from the line. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that two more free throws win this game. My accountant is incredulous if I don’t take the full 401(k) match, because she says it’s leaving free money on the table. Similarly, missed free throws are squandered points, and those lost opportunities bit the Bulls on Wednesday.
Image from ubbulls.com
We put ourselves in position to be up with four seconds left and unfortunately the cards didn’t fall our way. We are continuing to get better, and we aren’t scared of anyone.
Even so: UB sent a message that they are to be reckoned with in the days ahead.
“Really proud of our team, and their effort to open MAC play against a really good team,” Head Coach Becky Burke told UB In 5 after the game. “We put ourselves in position to be up with four seconds left and unfortunately the cards didn’t fall our way. We are continuing to get better, and we aren’t scared of anyone.”
Hell yes. Horns up.
Today at 2:30 PM: Central Michigan at Buffalo (ESPN+)
Image from cmuchippewas.com
We’ll get to see the rapidly improving Buffalo squad in action today as the back end of a men’s-women’s doubleheader at Alumni Arena. Paul Peck, drink plenty of hot tea!
After standing nose-to-nose with the Flashes (ranked #122 in NCAA NET), the Bulls (#196) catch Central Michigan (#285) as UB searches for that first MAC win in the Becky Burke era.
Winfield leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists at 14.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and has recorded five straight double-doubles, bringing her total to eight on the season. She ranks in the top 10 in the nation in double-doubles, rebounds per game and defensive rebounds per game. Young has set new UB career-highs three times and is averaging 12.8 points and 1.7 assists per contest. Stone is also averaging in double figures at 12.3 points per game while adding 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest.
The Bulls lead the MAC in rebounding defense (33.5) while ranking in the top half of the conference in scoring defense (58.5), field goal defense (39.5), 3FG defense (29.7) and field goal percentage (42.8).
The Central Michigan Chippewas are 3-9 overall and 1-0 in the MAC after defeating Northern Illinois 79-62 on Wednesday. CMU was picked to finish last in the MAC preseason poll. Freshman guard/forward Sydney Harris leads the Chippewas in scoring at 16.7 ppg. Bridget Utberg (10.3 ppg) is also scoring in double figures while and Virginia Tech transfer Rochelle Norris (6.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is also a main contributor. CMU leads the MAC in offensive rebounding (14.4) and ranks fifth in rebounding offense (37.8 rpg). The Chippewas return five letter winners while adding three grad transfers, a junior and a freshman from last year's squad. CMU lost three-time All-MAC selection Molly Davis to the transfer portal in the offseason as she transferred to Iowa. She was 12th in program history in scoring fifth in scoring average. Jahari Smith, CMU's leading returning scorer, has been out since December 3 with an injury.
Let’s do this.
Doing It the Hardnett Way: UB Men Take Out Ohio, Face NIU Today
Image from ubbulls.com
Let us now praise LaQuill Hardnett (pictured above), UB’s senior forward and the steady hand who led Buffalo to a 75-72 MAC-opening win over visiting Ohio on Tuesday.
With second-leading scorer Zid Powell on the bench recovering from a lingering injury and high-profile new additions Armani Foster and Isaiah Adams—the former a one-time finalist Division 2 player of the year, the latter a UCF transfer and 2019-20 Florida Mr. Basketball—combining to shoot nine-of-34 from the field and five-of-12 from the free throw line, Hardnett simply did the dirty work.
He scored 15 points, grabbed 16 boards, dished out three assists and recorded a steal. In a game in which the Bulls blew multiple double-digit leads, shot an eye-watering 37 percent from the floor, and barely broke 50 percent from the line, Q was an absolute rock.
Four of his eight second-half points came in the final two minutes as his teammates were clanking ducks from the charity stripe, and those buckets proved critical.
Just another day at work for the seasoned vet who transferred from Cincinnati before the 2019 campaign. Hardnett’s currently averaging nine points and seven boards per game, easily career highs.
Surrounded by new talent as one of the few impact players back from the 2021-22 roster—sophomore guard Curtis Jones (game-high 20 points vs. Ohio) is obviously in that bunch, and, to a lesser extent, second-year guard Kidtrell Blocker (solid 18 minutes off the bench)—LaQuill is a model of consistency on a squad that runs very hot and very cold. We’re grateful Q was in the lineup in the MAC opener.
Today at Noon: Northern Illinois at Buffalo (ESPN+)
Image from niuhuskies.com
We’ll see LaQuill and company back at it today on the front end of the aforementioned men’s-women’s doubleheader at Alumni Arena. Matt Mattia, bring your lozenges!
After dropping the Bobcats (ranked #128 in NCAA NET), the Bulls (#196—same as the women’s team!) face Northern Illinois (#309) as UB looks to move over .500 on the season. The Huskies (4-10, 0-1) gave up 48 second-half points to Akron on Tuesday in their MAC opener, losing 76-51 to the Zips.
Saturday's contest is the second-straight road game to begin conference play for the Huskies. Zarique Nutter (Newark, N.J.) led the way with 11 points and nine rebounds in the league opener at Akron.
Keshawn Williams (Chicago Heights, Ill.; pictured above) also scored in double figures against the Zips, netting 10 points, his 12th game in double figures this season. Williams leads NIU, and is tied for fourth in the MAC, in scoring at 18.8 points per game. He is also one of just two players in the conference, along with Bowling Green's Leon Ayers III, to rank in the top-25 in scoring, rebounding, assists, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage.
David Coit (Columbus, N.J.) is averaging 16.3 points per game over the last three contests, shooting 51.6 percent (16-of-31) from the floor. The trio of Williams, Coit and Nutter have combined to score 61.4 percent of NIU's points this season.
Should be a good day to have ESPN+ and Varsity App access. Love those winter afternoons when the Bulls kind of follow me around. Next best thing to being at the gym which, being 400 miles away from Buffalo and all, is a little tricky.
Horns up, gang, and have a great weekend.
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