Twice as nice

The UB women's basketball team is in action at the NCAA tournament on Friday

Howard Simon
March 21, 2019 - 3:46 pm

Photo: UBBulls.com

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While the University at Buffalo men are making their fourth appearance in the NCAA tournament in five years, the UB women are in the tournament for the third time in four seasons.

The Bulls (23-9) are seeded 10th in the Albany region and will face seventh-seed Rutgers (22-9) out of the Big Ten on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Storrs, Connecticut. UB earned an automatic spot in the field of 64 after winning the Mid-American Conference tournament. Many had believed the Bulls would have received an at-large invitation, but coach Felisha Legette-Jack didn’t feel that way. Legette-Jack was a guest on WGR and said she told her team they had no room for error.

"I didn't think we were going to make the tournament. I thought that Ohio was going to be that next team," Legette-Jack said on Tuesday. "We didn't go in with that kind of nervousness, we went in there understanding that if we start thinking about Kent State or Ohio or Central Michigan, this young team could collapse, and so we took their identity away."

UB enters the tournament off the three straight wins in Cleveland last week and with seven wins in their last nine games. The Bulls have one of the best players in the country leading the way in senior Cierra Dillard. The MVP of the MAC tournament is second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25 points per-game. Dillard also leads the Bulls in three-point field goals made, assists and steals. With a talent like Dillard, Legette-Jack makes sure she does not over coach. She gives Dillard the green light on the floor.

"You can't put that cap on that bottle, you just gotta let it explode and become what it is, and it's beautiful to watch," Legette-Jack said. "I would do a disservice to the game if I tried to put the top on that bottle, she just needs to go fly around and be free. And what she does is know how to put the ball in the hole and how to share the ball with her teammates and hence leading the entire MAC conference in assists with 6.7 a game. So we let her and Hanna Hall do the offense and I just said defensively, you're going to listen to me, alright? Offensively, you let it make it do what you do.”

Dillard does have help though, and the list includes Cardinal O’Hara product Summer Hemphill. She is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14 points per-game. Hemphill and Dillard are the only players who average more than 10 points a game. Hemphill is a monster on the boards, averaging 10 rebounds a game. In the MAC title game victory over Ohio, Hemphill set a tournament record with 21 rebounds.

Sophomore point guard Hanna Hall is coming off a strong MAC tournament as well. She averaged 14 points per-game and bounced back nicely after losing her starting spot towards the end of the regular season.

Legette-Jack’s teams at UB have been known for their strong defense, and while that is still the case with this group, they are more explosive on offense. UB is averaging 76 points per-game. If the game is close, keep in mind the Bulls are also a very good free throw shooting team. UB is 14th in the nation, averaging 77-percent at the line. Dillard is an 81-percent free throw shooter.

The game with Rutgers can be heard on AM 1400/107.3 FM and seen on ESPN2. UB had a nice run at last year’s tournament, upsetting South Florida and Florida State on the way to the Sweet 16. A return trip this year would be an unbelievable accomplishment and provide one of the biggest upsets in women’s tournament history. If UB knocks off Rutgers, they’d face powerhouse UConn on the Huskies' home court on Sunday.

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