MAC WOMEN’S SEMIFINAL: OHIO 63, Buffalo 55
How UB lost: Ohio’s defense negated UB’s biggest strength, it’s size and scoring in the low post. UB was outscored in the paint, 32-12. UB averaged 28 points a game in the paint in the MAC this year. Ohio is a great defensive team. It ranked No. 1 in the MAC in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense and three-point defense. Bobcats foes hit just 33.8 percent of their shots, the fourth best defensive total in the nation.
Ohio coach Bob Bolden on his defense: I thought we packed it in. We knew we had to win the points in the paint battle. We knew they were going to try to throw it inside and use their size. They’ve got size on top of size."
What it means: UB took a step forward, finishing fourth in the MAC and making the semifinals for only the second time in its 17-year MAC history. UB is 19-12. Ohio (26-4) advances to the MAC final. Ohio will be favored to win and earn its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1986.
UB Player of the game: Junior guard Mackenzie Loesing was heroic in defeat, scoring 14 points. It capped a remarkable season. Loesing had surgery in April to repair torn ligaments in her ankle, then re-tore them early in the season. She played every game, despite the fact she almost never practiced. She was named MAC Sixth Player of the Year.
Loesing was tearful in describing how difficult it was to play this season: “We all face our own adversities, obviously. So it’s been hard but there’s nothing I want to do more than fight for this team and with this team. We all fight our own battles and I’m not the only one who’s been dealing with stuff this season. I’m just blessed to be able to make it this far. I’m blessed to be able to still keep fighting every day.”
“I’m no stranger to pain,” Loesing said.
UB was down, 45-38, with 10:00 left, but Loesing scored or assisted on 13 straight points over the next six minutes. UB got within 52-51 but could come no closer.
Ohio player of the game: Mariah Byard scored 13 points and hit two three-pointers, with 5:10 to go and 2:55 to go, to keep UB from pulling even.
Stat check I: UB’s offense compensated for the lack of low-post points by making 9 of 19 three-pointers. UB averaged just 4.3 threes a game, third fewest in the MAC.
Stat check II: The officials let 'em play. UB took only seven free throws. Ohio took only 10. UB didn't get its first free-throw attempt until 33:06 into the game.
Said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack: "It just got a little crowded down there and it got a little interesting down low. The post play was a real interesting situation that I’d rather not talk about."
What’s next: UB has a shot to play in the Women’s NIT, a 64-team event. Last year three MAC teams made the tournament, so UB is hopeful of getting a bid. Whether it’s a home game would depend on where UB would be seeded.