You would have sworn Summer Hemphill was at least 6-foot-5 while watching her long body dominate the paint Saturday at Alumni Arena.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward grabbed a school-record 23 rebounds to help the University at Buffalo to a critical, 70-53 Mid-American Conference victory over Ohio University.
UB struggled from the perimeter against Ohio's packed-in, 2-3 zone defense in the first half. Ohio led, 26-21, UB's biggest halftime deficit since Dec. 21.
But Hemphill kept getting offensive rebounds and keeping balls alive.
"I try to use my body and arm length against the opponents to give my team as much chance as we can on the offensive side," Hemphill said.
Hemphill, the former Cardinal O'Hara star and first-team All-Western New Yorker, also had 11 points, four blocks and a steal.
She's averaging 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, which ranks 10th in the MAC. Hemphill was on the MAC all-freshman team last year after averaging 6.1 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
"I was thinking nowhere near 20s or setting the school record," Hemphill said of her rebound total. "I was just in there trying to grab boards for the guards and everybody putting shots up. Let them know that the posts had their rebounds and they could shoot it - let it fly."
"She's fast and she's agile," said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack. "She can jump and grab the rim. She can dunk a tennis ball. Right now we just want her to start saying to herself I am one of the best players in the country. When you say that to yourself over and over, you'll be walking to your blessing. She didn't have a lot of confidence coming in. Every day she plays and gets better, the more confident she gets."
Records: UB improved to 23-4 overall and 14-2 in the MAC and clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed for the MAC Tournament. Ohio is 15-12, 9-7.
Top scorers: UB got 14 points from junior wing Autumn Jones, 12 from senior center Cassie Oursler and 10 apiece from junior guard Cierra Dillard, senior guard Stephanie Reid, senior forward Mariah Suchan and Hemphill. UB was 1 of 13 from three-point range in the first half and 5-11 behind the arc in the second.
No. 1 seed: If first-place Central Michigan (15-1) loses to No. 3 Ball State on Wednesday and finishes tied with UB, the Bulls have the tie-breaker edge and will have the No. 1 seed for the MAC Tournament.
At-large report: If the Bulls do not win the MAC Tournament, they appear in good shape for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament if they win their last two regular-season games and reach the MAC title game. UB entered Saturday ranked No. 14 in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, a key factor in the NCAA selection process. That ranking would lead one to believe UB is a lock for an at-large berth. However, the NCAA's bias toward Power 5 conferences can never be underestimated. The NCAA keeps using RPI as a metric, even though it overrates strength of schedule and does not consider margin of victory.
The NCAA selection committee also this year is classifying victories by tier. Tier 1 wins are home wins against RPI foes 1-30, neutral-court wins vs. RPI foes 1-50 and road wins vs. RPI foes 1-75. UB is strong by that metric, too. The Bulls stand 4-2 in Tier 1 games and 6-1 in Tier 2 games.
ESPN had UB as the first team out last week, although two other websites had UB in the field. By comparison, two teams ESPN had rated among the last teams in had worse Tier I records than UB. Southern Cal was 2-9 in Tier 1 games and South Dakota State was 2-5.
Top student: UB senior Katherine Ups was one of eight players in the Northeast named first-team academic all-region this week. Ups carries a 3.92 grade-point average as a biomedical sciences major. St. Bona's McKenna Maycock also received the honor.
Up next: UB closes the regular season next week with games Tuesday at Kent State and Saturday at home against Bowling Green. Both Kent State and Bowling Green are in the bottom three of the 12-team MAC.