The players shuttle in and out of the game at a dizzying pace. The University at Buffalo women’s basketball team is using a deeper-than-ever bench to wear down opponents this season.
No matter who’s in the game, however, the glue that makes all of the pieces fit together remains point guard Stephanie Reid.
UB’s star junior from Australia played her typical master-distributor role Wednesday in helping the Bulls to a 65-52 victory over Canisius College.
Reid - the girl who hit the winning shot to send the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament last year – kept the Bulls in command from start to finish with eight points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
“I said to my team in the scouting report, I love that kid,” said Canisius coach Terry Zeh. “As a coach, she does everything that you love in a point guard.”
UB improved to 8-0, tying the best start in program history.
It wasn’t a perfect night for the Bulls. They made too many turnovers (20), and they shot only 21 percent from three-point range (4 of 19). But they used their size and physical advantage to outrebound Canisius, 50-29.
And the 5-foot-6 Reid kept the offense on track. Whenever UB has a string of three or four bad possessions, Reid is there to settle things down.
“She’s our general,” said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
“She makes them go,” Zeh said. “She’s on top of everything. Late in the game we were going to get into a press, and I no sooner get the words out of my mouth, and she’s pointing people in directions, getting them in place. She knows what’s going on.”
Reid made sure to feed UB’s best scorer, senior guard JoAnna Smith, who scored 23 points.
“She knows when a teammate needs a shot, how to get it for them, when to shoot quickly, when not to,” Zeh said. “In my view, she’s the MVP of that team, and JoAnna Smith is really, really good.”
UB is playing at a faster tempo this season in part because of its depth. New freshman Summer Hemphill, the 6-1 forward from Cardinal O’Hara, is too fast for most opposing forwards. She had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
“I think this year we have a lot more athletic players in our lineup, it really enables us to push the ball,” Reid said. “I can trust that our bigs are going to run the lanes, and our guards are running hard. We can go deep on our bench now. As soon as someone gets tired and has to stop running, we can sub someone else in and keep pushing the ball.”
In one four-minute stretch of the second half Wednesday, Reid had a drive in the lane and dish to Hemphill for a layup, a drive and kick to Brittany Morrison for a layup and a lob pass to Cassie Oursler for a layup. By that point, UB held a 58-43 advantage.
Canisius (2-6) could not get the deficit under 10 points in the second half.
Entering Thursday’s play, UB stood 12th in the nation in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index, which combines record and strength of schedule. The Bulls’ strength of schedule was 71st in the nation. It’s the highest RPI in UB program history.
Canisius got 12 points from sophomore forward Sara Hinriksdottir, 11 from junior guard Saliah Serrette, and 10 apiece from sophomore forward Sarah Cooley and sophomore guard Maria Welch.
The Bulls are off until Dec. 21 when they play host to St. Bonaventure.
Canisius plays at 12th-ranked Ohio State (7-3) on Sunday. Ohio State beat UB in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. The Buckeyes reached the Sweet 16.
In the house: Attendance was 943 at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Cold shooting: Canisius is looking to get its collective shooting touch going before the start of conference play. The Griffs hit just 32.7 percent from the field against UB and made just 6 of 23 three-pointers.
"We haven’t shot it well yet, which is tough for us, because I do think we have some really good shooters on the team. We needed some of those to go down to keep it within striking distance."
Too physical: UB entered the game outrebounding foes by 12.3 a game. Canisius was getting outrebounded by 7.6 a game.
"We knew this was a really good basketball team coming in, and we’d have to play really well," Zeh said. "I knew they’re a very physical team. If it was refereed that way, it would be a tall order for us. That’s what it was. . . . I’m not saying it was refereed unfairly. It was refereed in a very physical way. We’re not ready to answer that right now. We just don‘t have the strength and physicality to answer it."