Great defense and the scoring of JoAnna Smith carried the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team to its biggest win of the season Saturday.
Smith scored 29 points to lead UB past Central Michigan, 67-55, in a rematch of last season’s Mid-American Conference championship game.
It was the first MAC loss for Central Michigan, which was the preseason favorite to win the MAC and whipped UB, 88-71, just two weeks ago.
This time, UB used a man-to-man defense to suffocate the Chippewas’ outstanding scorers.
Central Michigan entered the game 20th in the nation in three-point shooting and second in the MAC in scoring, averaging 76.4 ppg.
UB held the Chippewas to 1-of-15 three-point shooting.
“It’s not about anybody else, it’s about what’s in our locker room,” said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “We stand for defense. We stand for unity. Today’s message was good isn’t good enough when your best is required. Cierra Dillard had that hanging in her locker, and I thought this was the best time to bring that out.”
UB improved to 14-4 overall and 4-3 in the MAC. Central Michigan is 14-5 and 6-1.
A swarming matchup-zone defense has been UB’s trademark the past four years under Legette-Jack. This year she has played mostly man defense. The addition of long-armed freshmen Summer Hemphill and Theresa Onwuka, both of whom are starting, has made the Bulls more athletic and more effective in man defense.
“Give Fe credit,” said Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara. “Sometimes coaches will dig their heels in to what they really believe and don’t want to make a change. But she’s made a change, and her players have responded to it. They are very aggressive. They know your strengths and they’re going to dictate. They did a great job of dictating.”
UB point guard Stephanie Reid and her backup, Gabi Bade, combined to hold Central Michigan star guard Presley Hudson to eight points, 11.7 under her season average. Hudson, who scored 43 points on Ball State 11 days ago, was held to 2-of-12 shooting.
“She’s a great player, and we have a lot of respect for each other,” Reid said. “Our team defense, it’s not just one on one. I felt confident defending her because if she did beat me, I knew that the bigs had my back.”
Legette-Jack credited 6-foot-3 junior center Cassie Oursler, who had been slowed by a sore ankle early in the month, with quality rim protecting.
“Having Cassie on the floor makes us a better team because Summer can fly around a little more free, knowing we have a 6-3 kid in the back,” Legette-Jack said.
Reid scored only three points but she had 12 assists and just two turnovers.
UB moved the ball well to help give Smith space to shoot and drive. She made 11 of 25 shots.
“We couldn’t contain JoAnna early, and she’s pretty special,” Guevara said. “We had two people on her at one point and she drove to the basket, went up, changed her body and put it in against the glass. I told our team, JoAnna put that team on her shoulders and her team responded.”
Onwuka gave UB 14 points. Hemphill, the O’Hara product, had 10 points and nine rebounds. As a starter the past five games, Onwuka is averaging 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. Central Michigan got 21 from center Tinara Moore.
“We’re taking steps,” Legette-Jack said. “Our best is going to be ready for March. We’re taking steps toward that.”
A crowd of 1,438 watched at Alumni Arena. UB’s next game is at home against Ball State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.