Buffalo, NY — The University of Buffalo took home its third-straight win Saturday afternoon with a 67-59 victory over Central Michigan, handing the Chippewas their first conference loss of the season at Alumni Arena.
First Team All-MAC and the Bulls’ best scorer, JoAnna Smith was extremely energetic, leading the heard — and creating momentum when the Bulls needed it the most. Smith scored 29 points, five rebounds and one steal, making it clear she is a force to be reckoned with.
“We could not contain JoAnna,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “JoAnna put that team on her shoulders, and her team responded.”
In the first quarter, Smith set the momentum by refusing to hesitate on any shot. Like a bull in a China shop, she was not afraid to cause havoc, relentlessly attacking the basket every opportunity she got.
Central Michigan, who is the MAC’s favorite to win it all, has a record that now sits at 14-5. The team’s experience was key in allowing them to dictate the first quarter. The Chippewas coincidentally chipped away at the Bulls’ defense, executing 50 percent of its field goals. The experience its starting lineup possesses showed patience in getting to the basket. Central Michigan was very efficient in the first, containing the lead even though the Bulls were out-shooting them.
The Chippewas used long passes to advance their positioning to the basket. There they utilized the height of their 6-foot-3 forward Tinara Moore, who was the top scorer of the match. Moore posted 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Within the first half, Moore made 7-of-10 field goals, contributing to Michigan’s ability to hold on to the lead.
But Moore is not Central Michigan’s top-secret weapon. It was very evident that the Bulls’ focus was to minimize the existence of sophomore guard Presley Hudson, who currently leads the Chippewas averaging 19.7 points per game.
Hudson was absent this match, making 2-of-9 field goals and scoring eight points. Point guard Stephanie Reid made it her mission to suffocate Hudson, preventing the ball from reaching her hands.
“Our team defense is not one-on-one,” Reid said. “I was confident defending her because I knew if she did beat me, my team had my back.”
Reid had a consistent game, executing 12 assists and three points.
Heading into the second quarter, the Bulls trailed by one. Central Michigan’s defense was strong, preventing Buffalo from sinking a single shot. The Chippewas consistency kept the Bulls at bay until the Bull’s powerful duo of Smith and freshman Summer Hemphill, correlated a play gaining Hemphill a basket and the opportunity to execute a foul shot, creating the first lead change of the match.
In the third quarter, the Bulls made it clear whose house they were in, scoring 17 points and keeping the lead heading into the fourth. Hemphill had an incredible steal, creating an opportunity for Smith to take a shot. If the Chippewas scored a basket, the Bulls would answer back, taking a basket of their own. Even in the third, the Bulls possessed high energy, smothering Central Michigan, eliminating their visibility of the basket.
The fourth quarter is where the Bulls shined. They pulled away, creating the biggest lead of the match with 10 points. With less than four minutes remaining, Buffalo showed true perseverance, sinking nine baskets and increasing its lead by 12. The Chippewas were the exact opposite, and made just one single basket with two minutes remaining.
The Bulls finished with a comfortable lead of 11 points, handing Central Michigan their first MAC loss of the season.
The Bulls had an incredible match against the 23rd top shooting team in the nation, but head coach Felisha Legette-Jack knows there is more work to do.
“Your good, isn’t good enough, when you best is required,” she said.” We are taking steps to get better, our best is going to be ready in March.”
Buffalo’s record now sits 14-4 (4-3 MAC). The Bulls will be looking for their fourth-straight win as they take on the Ball State Cardinals Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. Central Michigan will look to bounce back against Toledo on Jan. 28; tip-of is set for 4:30 p.m ET.