These were traits the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team hadn’t shown. Aggressive. Passionate. Balanced. Poised.
The Bulls did everything right on Friday afternoon, easily defeating Niagara, 65-51, in front of 1,098 at Alumni Arena in the final non-conference Big 4 matchup of the season.
It was only the second win of the season for the Bulls (2-8) but it was Buffalo’s eighth straight over Niagara.
Four players scored in double figures for UB, led by freshman Mackenzie Loesing, who had a game-high 17 points including a number of fastbreak layups off her six steals.
“All week in practice we talked about playing for the name on the front of the jersey,” said Loesing, who added eight rebounds. “I think today if you see the stats it was more of a team game than we’ve played this year. We’re relying on each other. It’s all about the trust.”
And the box score was filled with balance for the Bulls. Freshman Rachael Gregory added 13 points and eight rebounds while junior Margeaux Gupilan scored 14 with four steals. Sophomore Kristen Sharkey pulled in 10 rebounds with two blocks and eight points.
Buffalo also felt the immediate impact of redshirt junior Cherridy Thornton. The forward transferred from Detroit in January and was cleared by the NCAA after the conclusion of the fall semester.
A strong presence with fluid footwork, she had 11 points off the bench, including a pair of three-pointers, along with eight rebounds.
“Cherridy helps with ball handling, she can hit open shots and post up strong,” Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “She a locker room player and you win championships with locker room players. She’s very vocal and her voice has conviction now that she’s playing. She’s not only talking the talk, now she’s walking the walk.”
Niagara scored the first bucket of the game for its only lead. The Bulls then went on a 12-2 run to take control of the game. They led by as many as 22 points and weathered a Niagara surge with about four minutes to play that cut the lead to 10. The idea was to keep attacking to create whether it be a scoring opportunity or an opportunity for a teammate.
“What we do in basketball is a microcosm of life and how you go after this game is a direct correlation to your future,” Legette-Jack said. “You can’t wait for something to happen and wait your turn. Your turn may never come. You have to make something happen.”
That’s where Niagara coach Kendra Faustin was disappointed in her team that saw its two-game win streak snapped.
The Purple Eagles (5-5) struggled offensively with finishing plays. The team made just two three-pointers late in the game and overall shot 25 percent (17 of 68). Lauren Gatto was the only Niagara player in double figures, scoring 16, while Kayla Stroman had six points.
“It was the same situation. The same type of team and we were going into a holiday break,” she said. “And we’re not focused. I’m really disappointed in our leadership, in Kayla and Lauren. Those are the two who need to show up every night regardless of records or time. They didn’t do that and I’m really disappointed.”
Both teams are off until Dec. 29. The Bulls return to Alumni Arena to host Pittsburgh while Niagara travels to Michigan.