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Buzzer-beater breakdown: How the UB women hit those big shots to earn NCAA trip

The buzzer-beating shot in overtime by Stephanie Reid to win the Mid-American Conference title Saturday will go down in University at Buffalo history.

But the Bulls’ berth in their first-ever NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament was sealed by not one, but two buzzer beaters.

UB scored on a 25-foot three-pointer by Courtney Wilkins at the buzzer to end the first half. Without those points, UB doesn’t make it to overtime in the game against Central Michigan.

And the amazing thing about Wilkins’ shot? She played only 9 seconds of the entire game.

As the first half was drawing to a close, Central Michigan went to the free-throw line with 8.2 seconds left. UB assistant coach Kristen Sharkey suggested that head coach Felisha Legette-Jack insert Wilkins, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Australia.

Wilkins averages only 8.5 minutes and 2.7 points a game, but she hit 15 three-pointers despite her limited playing time.

“Courtney is a great shooter, and in practice she doesn’t miss threes,” Sharkey said. “So in my mind, I thought we have 8 seconds. That’s five or six dribbles. Stephanie drives it in and kicks it back to the trail.”

Reid drove down court, penetrated the lane and passed back to Wilkins.

“It’s a play that’s called White Slice,” Wilkins said. “When there’s not much time left on the clock and we get the ball at the opposite baseline, then I pass it in to Steph. They dribble down and pass it back behind them to me.”

“My job on the team on the team is to shoot,” Wilkins said. “Coach Jack always tells me to shoot. So I did my job.”

Wilkins’ shot gave UB a 37-36 halftime lead.

The winning shot was just as perfectly executed.

Katherine Ups, a sophomore from Australia, inbounded the ball. She had Joanna Smith running toward her side of the court along the baseline and Reid running from the baseline up past the top of the key.

Said Ups: “My first look was Joanna in the corner for a three or a drive by Jo, but my second option was Steph coming up the lane off a screen by Cassie” Oursler.

“I knew Steph was going to be open,” Ups said. “She’s always open every inbound play. All coach Jack said was look for Jo in the corner; if not, Steph will be there.”

It’s a good thing Smith was well-guarded on the play. She had lost one of her contact lenses with 1:30 to go and could only see clearly out of one eye.

“Right before a time out, a player accidentally poked me in the eye and it went out,” Smith said. “I never did find it on the court. So I went the last minute and a half with one contact in. That’s not my first time playing with one contact in, but it’s not perfect. Without contacts, I’m very near-sighted.”

Oursler’s pick allowed Reid to get well clear of the player guarding her, Cassie Breen. The 5-6 Reid took two dribbles, vaulted from the right elbow of the foul line and made her 10-foot shot over 6-foot Reyna Frost, who stepped forward to challenge the shot.

“I don’t practice that shot that often,” Reid said, “but I have practiced it before” with coach Ashley Zuber. “So it came in handy when I needed it.”

The shot gave UB a 73-71 triumph.

“It was absolutely an unbelievable shot,” said Ups. “A one-handed runner from the free-throw line off the backboard, it was perfect form, a perfect shot, as if she’s practiced it 1,000 times.”

Said Sharkey: “That was the beauty of that game,” Sharkey said. “Everyone on this team plays a part and does their job. You win championships defending the ball and then everyone buying in and doing their job.”