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Bengals focused on semis, not record

In all honesty, Sue Roarke was surprised by the statistic.

When she took over the Buffalo State women's basketball program, she knew about the program's rich history of success. That's why she was taken aback when she learned her team's 23 regular-season wins set a program record.

"When I came here six years ago, it was because of the success of the program. It had a history I knew of," Roarke said. "I knew all the pieces were here -- the facilities, the academics, things like that -- which you need to be successful. It surprised me a bit. But at this point, we're just trying to get ready for the next game. We won't fully be able to appreciate it until the season is over."

The next game remains the most important for the Bengals, who are the top seed in the State University at New York Athletic Conference tournament. After a quarterfinal win over No. 8 Fredonia on Tuesday night, the Bengals will host the conference Final Four, playing No. 5 Cortland (16-10) at 8 p.m. Friday. No. 2 New Paltz (18-8) and No. 3 Oneonta (17-8) will play in the first semifinal of the day at 6 p.m. The SUNYAC championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.

Buffalo State has won nine SUNYAC women's basketball titles and made 11 NCAA appearances, but the program has been without a conference championship and postseason berth since 2002.

The Bengals hope to end that drought this weekend. With a 24-2 overall mark, the team is one shy of tying the school record for total wins set in 1993-94 and 2001-02. They are 15-0 at home this year.

The Bengals are paced by three players on offense: 5-foot-10 sophomore center Bianca Smiley (Sweet Home), who averages 14.2 points; junior guard/forward Staci McElroy, who averages 11.9 points; and senior guard Barb Kiliszek (Lancaster), who adds 10.2 points.

"The difference in our success this year is we have three different players who on any given night can score over 20 points," Roarke said. "If someone is having an off day, they have each other's back. We also have four or five other kids who on any given day can score in double figures. It's really nice because if someone is having a bad day, someone else can pick them up."

While balanced scoring is helpful, it's defense and rebounding that has helped the Bengals keep winning. The team is giving up just 53.1 points a game and outrebounding opponents, 45.0 to 36.0.

"From the first day of practice, we emphasized rebounding," Roarke said. "We have some size on teams with our posts and we have some good athleticism. Rebounding has been a key for us. Even a day when we're not shooting the ball well, we can get the rebound and control the tempo."

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Indoor Track and Field

Buffalo State is looking to defend its conference titles at the SUNYAC Championships in Geneva on Sunday.

The women have won the last three titles; the men won last year. Both have been in the national rankings this year in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll.

Erica Johnson, the defending 55-meter national champion, has the top time in Division III in the 60-meter dash at 7.55 seconds. Jazmin Dunham is second in the 60-meter hurdles (8.80).

The Bengals' Mariah Brown earned SUNYAC Athlete of the Week honors after winning 200 and 400 and running a leg of the winning 4x200 meter relay at the RIT Invitational.

Chris Rones won the men's honor, setting a school record in the 60-meter hurdles at 8.38 seconds at the RIT Invitational. That was the 17th fastest time in DIII this season.

The University at Buffalo will compete in the Mid-American Conference Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday at Akron. Last year the men finished fourth among five teams and the women ninth among 12 teams.

The field athletes again lead the way for the Bulls.

Becky O'Brien has the top performance in the MAC this year in the shot put, throwing a 57-08.25 at the SPIRE Invitational. She is the defending conference champ and was a second-team All-American with her 11th place finish at nationals last year.

Kristy Woods redshirted last season after earning All-America honors with her third-place finish in the shot put at the 2010 NCAA National Outdoor Championships. She ranks third in the shot put (51-03.50) and third in the 20-pound weight throw (61-10.50).

Rob Golabek's 63-03.50 shot put at the SPIRE Invitational is the best in the MAC this year. The senior from Frontier is the defending MAC champion and finished eighth at nationals last year.

Asia Henry and Donna Jeanty have the top two times in the MAC in the 500 meters this season and Henry also has the best time in the 800 meters. Brooklynn Ventura has the best time in the 60-meter hurdles.

On the men's side, Miles Lewis has the second-best time in the 60 meters and third in the 200; Isaiah Mask ranks second in the 500; Jacob Wray is third in the 60-meter hurdles.

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Basketball playoffs

Medaille's men's basketball team will host the Final Four of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament this weekend. The top-seeded Mavericks (23-2) will play No. 4 Hilbert (15-11) at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the conference semifinal in the Sullivan Center. Hilbert advanced by beating D'Youville in a first-round game Tuesday.

The second semifinal pits No. 2 LaRoche (18-7) against No. 3 Penn State-Behrend (15-10) at 8 p.m. LaRoche is the only team in the AMCC to have beaten Medaille this year.

The championship is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Daemen men will host the America Mid-East Conference championship as the top-seeded Wildcats (19-10) host No. 2 Wilburforce (13-18). The game will be at 4 p.m. Saturday with the winner advancing to the national NAIA tournament.

The second-seeded Daemen women (23-6) play at No. 1 Point Park (22-6) at 7 p.m. Saturday in their third straight title game appearance.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com