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UB WOMEN MAKE A SENIOR DAY STATEMENT AT KENT STATE
PLUS: UB men's hoops finish off NIU, look ahead to a huge week; UB softball goes 2-3 in the Lobo Classic
Image from record-courier.com
It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the Kent State women’s basketball team.
The Golden Flashes (17-10 overall, 9-9 in Mid-American Conference play) were supposed to be contenders.
They’re a balanced team, with impact seniors like three-and-D forward Lindsay Thall and pesky guard Mariah Modkins (who lived briefly in Buffalo as a youngster when her father, Curtis Modkins).
They beat UCLA back in November, when the Bruins were ranked 19th in the country.
They’ve been dining out on that UCLA win for a long time. Even after a middling run through its MAC schedule, KSU—ranked 102nd NCAA NET, third in the conference behind Toledo (63rd) and Buffalo (77th)— picked up 15 votes in the most recent College Insider Women’s Mid-Major Top 25.
Saturday was supposed to be the breakthrough: Senior Day at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, archrival UB in town with their own ticket to the upcoming conference tourney in Cleveland pre-punched, a big chance for the Flashes to catch the Bulls (20-8, 14-4) napping and hand them a big, ugly road loss that shook their confidence and propelled the would-be victors into Cleveland with some heat.
The exact opposite happened. Buffalo junior Loren Christie (pictured above) had 10 points, four rebounds, and two blocks in the first quarter to stake visiting Buffalo to a 19-14 lead.
Christie’s performance was the opening act for the Dyaisha Fair show.
Fair, the reigning MAC Player of the Week, poured in 28 points, including four-of-seven from three-point range, as the Bulls blew out the Flashes on their home court, 82-64.
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Never Let Them Get Too Close
Images from ubbulls.com
UB forward Summer Hemphill (pictured above, right) will have a pretty good case for Player of the Week herself—she followed her 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Wednesday’s win over Ohio with a 15-point, 18-rebound game in Saturday.
Hemphill, Christie (pictured above, left), and junior forward Adebola Adeyeye (pictured above, second from left) combined for 31 points, 27 rebounds, and four blocked shots, dominating the paint against one of the MAC’s tougher frontcourts.
Buffalo outscored Kent State in the paint, 42-20, and out-rebounded KSU, 41-38. The Flashes entered the game as the MAC leader in keeping opponents off the boards. Kent State also shot under 30 percent from the field.
The ice cold killer in this game, however, was Dyaisha Fair (pictured above, second from right).
Fair’s 28 points were only her fourth-highest point total in her last six games—”only”—and came on an afternoon when her backcourt mate, Georgia Woolley—one of the top-scoring freshmen in the country—had just nine.
It wasn’t just the volume, nor was it simply about efficiency (although Fair’s .556 shooting percentage was her fifth-best this season). It was the way she got those buckets. Fair had defenders on a string all night long.
Consider two small examples:
Four of Fair’s 10 made field goals directly answered a KSU basket. A fifth, a shot-clock-beating three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, put the Bulls up by 20 and was the capper on a five-minute, 17-6 run.
When Kent State cut the score to 11 points with under five minutes left in the third quarter, Fair scored seven of UB’s next nine to provide a 16-point cushion heading into the fourth.
“Dyaisha Fair, there’s not a whole lot defensively you can answer with,” Thall said after the game. “Defensively, we tried to build a wall, help when we can, but sometimes we got over-helped, and she’s a really good passer as well, so we were just kind of getting exposed by her offensively, and by her passing.”
“They’re a really good team, and they’re in the position that they are for a reason,” KSU Head Coach Todd Starkey added. “But when they’re just making ridiculous shots, even the contested ones, even the ones at the buzzer…sometimes it’s just not your day…(and Fair) is as good as anyone in the country when she gets cooking. She made a lot of uncontested shots, but she made a lot of contested ones, as well. It’s really difficult to stop her when she gets going like that.”
It is indeed.
Up Next: A final road trip to Akron (15-9, 12-6, 125th NCAA NET). It’s important: a win will clinch Buffalo the second seed in the MAC tourney, and a loss will give the Zips—currently third in the conference—a shot at overtaking the Bulls in the last week of the season.
The contest, set to be played in Akron’s treacherous JAR, is slated for Wednesday at 7 p.m. ESPN3 will have the live stream.
UB MEN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS, HAVE A TOUGH RUN AHEAD
Image from ubbulls.com
What can you say? it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Buffalo walked out of Alumni Arena with a 70-60 win over visiting Northern Illinois on Saturday, and while the Bulls (19-8, 13-4) didn’t cover the 16.5-point spread (not that it matters), they pasted another W in the standings.
From The Buffalo News:
In the first five minutes of the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team’s 70-60 win against Northern Illinois, Bulls coach Jim Whitesell turned to assistant coach Jamie Quarles, exasperated. He had just watched his team open the game shooting an uncharacteristic 0 for 12 from the floor.
Whitesell, though, swapped out three starters a little more than a minute before a timely shot by Ronaldo Segu, and UB’s bench provided a jolt that helped the Bulls take control and open their lead to 19 points in the first half.
“I thought we had some really good shots,” Whitesell said. “But, along with it, you can’t let your defense down. With subbing, the energy really went up.”
Was UB thinking ahead to its huge matchups against Toledo and Kent State this week? It’s hard to believe they weren’t.
Theoretically, Buffalo could still win the conference with two wins this week. Here’s how:
First-place Toledo (23-6, 15-3) loses to Buffalo at Alumni Arena and Bowling Green at home in Savage Arena. This would take some heavy lifting by the Falcons (12-17, 5-13), admittedly.
Second-place Ohio (23-6, 14-4) loses to either Bowling Green or Northern Illinois (8-20, 5-13). Both are road games. Not technically impossible?
Third-place Kent State 19-9, 14-4), winners of 10 in a row, simply loses to Buffalo. The Golden Flashes last loss was to the Bulls, giving UB a series sweep and a clear-cut tiebreaker.
It’s that easy!
Regardless, a victory over Toledo, 79th in NCAA NET rankings, would be Buffalo’s signature regular season win. Beating Kent State at the MACC could break the magic spell around the team right now—a spell that Central Michigan can perilously close to cracking last night in a 73-71 loss to KSU in Mount Pleasant.
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It Ain’t Easy: Nine Wins in a Row Got us Here
Image from ubbulls.com
While we’re still basking in the warmth of a nine-game win streak, let’s give the Bulls credit for what they’ve accomplished.
After back-to-back losses to Toledo and Ohio in late January, UB was 4-4 in conference and looking down the barrel of a lost season. Instead, they regrouped, and haven’t lost since.
The schedule helped, but no one hands out free wins in the MAC.
Well, maybe Western Michigan. But still—senior forward Josh Mballa bounced back from a COVID-plagued January in which he averaged 6.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in five games to 16 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine games in February.
Swingman Maceo Jack’s averaging 41 percent from three-point range this month after shooting 24 percent from distance in January.
Sophomore David Skogman’s getting more consistent, hitting double-digit points in three of his past four games, and grabbing six or more rebounds in six of nine games in February.
Segu (pictured above) has continued distributing—he has six or more assists in seven games this month—and is getting more selective about his shots (Saturday’s three-for-13 performance notwithstanding).
Jeenathan Williams is Jeenathan Williams, averaging 20.3 points per game over the nine-game win streak.
Even the bench is coalescing—more minutes for freshman guard Curtis Jones, slightly fewer for debonair senior Keishawn Brewton. A balancing act, depending on need, between bruising forward Tra’Von Fagan and the lankier LaQuill Hardnett.
"Another hard fought game and I give our bench a lot of credit because we really needed them today," said head coach Jim Whitesell. "I can't say enough about the character of this team, to win nine games in the month of February and then we asked a lot out of them over the last 12 days, and they came through. I'm just so grateful to be coaching this group."
Williams finished with 18 points, one of three UB players in double figures. Mballa added 14 points and 15 rebounds, including seven of those on the offensive end. Segu finished with 12 points.
The Buffalo bench finished with 17 points, 15 of those coming in the first half. Jones scored seven points, while Brewton had six points, three rebounds, and three assists. Fagan added three points and Hardnett had four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Jack scored seven points and had five rebounds, while Skogman finished with two points, six boards, four assists, two steal, and two blocks.
Buffalo had 17 assists on 23 made baskets, while turning it over just eight times. UB also held a 48-38 advantage on the glass.
It’s all starting to gel at the right time.
We stand at the precipice: set your alarms for 7 p.m. Tuesday to watch the Toledo game on ESPN+.
ROLLER COASTER RUN FOR UB SOFTBALL IN LOBO CLASSIC
Image from ubbulls.com
The UB softball team had a bit of a wild experience in the Chihuahuan Desert this weekend, collecting two wins and three losses in the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Classic.
Thursday: Buffalo dropped a 5-3 decision to UTEP in extra innings. Junior Brianna Castro went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. “The Bulls put two on in the bottom of the seventh but were unable to plate a run,” UBBulls.com reports. “UTEP scored three runs on an RBI double and a pair of RBI fly outs to take a 5-2 lead in the top of the eighth. The Bulls had their shot at a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning as Castro singled to center, but they would get no closer as the comeback fell short.”
Friday: What goes around, comes around—UB knocked out Tarleton State, 3-2, in extra innings on the second day of the tourney. “The Bulls scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth as Rachel Steffan singled to left center field to score Alexis Matheney and (Alexis) Lucyshyn recorded a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory,” the school’s website notes. “Lucyshyn picked up her second win of the season as she struck out a career-high 10 batters while allowing just one walk in a complete game effort.” Unfortunately, Buffalo was clipped by North Dakota State, 6-3, in the nightcap.
Saturday: The Bulls got a taste of revenge on their final day in Albuquerque, dropping UTEP, 4-1. “Offense was at a premium over the first three innings, but the Bulls broke through in the top of the fourth as Madison Fernimen led off the inning with a single and Rachel Steffan followed with an RBI double to left and advanced to third on the throw,” according to the official recap. “Anna Aguon capitalized as she hit a ball to right for a sac fly RBI to right to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead.” Lucyshyn would hold the lead, earning UB the W. Buffalo fell to New Mexico, 6-2, to close out the trip west.
Up next for the Bulls (5-5)—more road trips, this time to the Gulf Coast for the Lion Classic at Southeast Louisiana University in Hammond, La., which is about 45 miles east of Baton Rouge, northwest of Lake Ponchartrain. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
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