TALLAHASSEE, FL – The historic season of the University at Buffalo women's basketball team continued on Monday night after the Bulls steamrolled past third-seeded Florida State, 86-65, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FL. The Bulls became just the third team in Mid-American Conference history to advance to the Sweet 16, joining the 2007 Bowling Green Falcons and Central Michigan, who also advanced this year.
"I am so grateful to be with these young ladies who teach me every day that every day I have to bring something different because they're such ferocious learners and they want it so desparately," head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "Not necessarily to win, but to tell their story. I'm so honored to coach these young ladies. They took a broken coach and they took her to the Sweet 16."
Mariah Suchan made a free throw to break a 28-all tie with 1:43 left in the half and the Bulls never trailed again. Sparked by eight points from Cierra Dillard, the Bulls finished the half on an 11-2 scoring run to take a 39-30 lead at the break. The nine-point halftime advantage was even more impressive considering star point guard Stephanie Reid spent most of the second quarter on the bench with foul trouble.
The Bulls opened the third quarter on a 7-2 scoring run, capped by a Reid driving layup to extend their lead to 46-32. Buffalo never let its foot off the gas and a pair of Cassie Oursler free throws gave the Bulls a 59-45 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Seminoles would get as close as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but never threatened. Courtney Wilkins drained a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 23-point lead – their largest of the game.
All five UB starters scored in double-figures, led by Dillard's 22. Summer Hemphill notched a double-double with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Reid had 18 points and Ourlser and Katherine Ups added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Buffalo's stingy defense was the key to this victory. The Bulls forced 17 turnovers and held the Seminoles, a team that entered the game averaging 81 points per contest, to 34 percent shooting, including just 3-of-25 from beyond the arc. UB held Florida State to just 29 percent shooting in the second half.
"We take a lot of pride in our defense and we knew today that was going to be such a huge emphasis for us," Reid said. "We held them to 65 points, when they score a lot; knowing coming into that game, they score a lot. I thought we did really well controlling the pace today and we just locked in on our defense and I think that really helped us get this in."
"It's one-ness. Coach always preaches to us that we do this as a team," Dillard said. "The thing about Buffalo is that no one person is standing on their own. We do this as 14 strong, we do this as five coaches strong. We do this as a staff strong. This is one-ness and this is what it's about. To be an 11-seed going to the Sweet 16, not many teams do that. I heard earlier that this is the year of upsets. To be a part of this year and to be apart of the NCAA Tournament, not just the men but the women's side too, and to be a part of the MAC, who is doing some great things right now, is what it is, it is one-ness. I'm so amazed to be a part of this and I'm amazed to be back as a New York state hometown kid. To be a part of putting your state on the map, being a part of Buffalo, is what it is, it's one-ness."
The Bulls will next play defending national champion South Carolina, the two seed, on Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany. Tipoff is slated for 11:30 am.