BUFFALO, NY – Coming off of their most successful campaign in program history a season ago, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team will open up their 2018-19 campaign on Thursday night in front of their home fans Inside Alumni Arena. For the third straight season, the Bulls will entertain the Bloomsburg Huskies in an exhibition game that will tip at 7:00 pm.
The Bulls will be sporting a roster with seven fresh faces this season as they added six incoming freshman and a redshirt freshman transfer from Memphis to their talented roster. The Bulls also return nine scholarship players from last year's Sweet 16 team.
A season ago, the Bulls were able to post a program record 29-6 record including a 16-2 MAC mark before falling in the MAC Championship game to Central Michigan. Despite the loss, Buffalo was able to earn their first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as they were tabbed an 11-seed. The Bulls continued their strong play in postseason play as they upset No. 6 South Florida in the first round and No. 3 Florida State in the second round to earn a trip to the Sweet 16 in Albany, NY. The magical run came to an end in the Sweet 16 as No. 2 South Carolina used their superior height and length to stop the Bulls, handing them the 79-63 loss.
The new look Bulls will be relying heavily on a pair of returners in senior guard Cierra Dillard and junior forward Summer Hemphill. Dillard returns for her senior season with her sights set on a future in the sport after she posted a team-best 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 3.0 steals last season. The lethal scorer finished off her junior campaign with a team-high 85 three-pointers while also setting the school record for steals in a season with 105 thefts. During the Bulls NCAA Tournament run, Dillard was the catalyst for the UB offense as she averaged 29.0 points/game while connecting on 12 triples.
Hemphill returns to the Bulls for her junior campaign after posting a career year last season as she averaged 10.1 points, a team-best 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.5 blocks and shot 57.2% from the floor. The athletic forward was hard to handle on the glass for Buffalo last season as she grabbed 89 offensive rebounds and broke the Bulls division I rebounding record with 23 rebounds in a win against Ohio.
Buffalo will also be looking to replace all-time great point guard Stephanie Reid this season and sophomore Hanna Hall will be squarely in the running for the open starting spot after she improved all season long last season as the backup point guard. The Hamilton, Ontario native earned two starts during her freshman campaign and posted a career-best seven assists in the Bulls win over UNLV and a career-high 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting in a win later in the season against Kent State.
Senior Autumn Jones will be looked at to provide the Bulls with some consistent scoring this season after showing signs of being one of the most explosive bench scorers in the MAC last season. The Indianapolis, IN native finished off her first season in Buffalo averaging 6.7 points while connecting on 45 three-pointers, good for second on the team. Theresa Onwuka will also be pushing for minutes this season as her athleticism and length on defense make her a strong asset for UB while sharpshooter Marissa Hamilton has shown growth from her freshman campaign that will make her a strong candidate for minutes in the back court for UB. Senior captain Ayoleka Sodade has always provided the Bulls with a strong defensive mentality and her improving ability to get to the basket will add to the Bulls increasing depth at guard this season.
Up front, senior three-point specialist Courtney Wilkins is going to be a major component of the Buffalo offense after her strong finish to last season. Wilkins closed out her junior campaign averaging 2.9 points and connecting on 30 triples but she was able to average 8.7 points during the NCAA Tournament including a career-best 23-point game against South Florida as she went 5-for-8 from behind the arc. Fellow senior Brittany Morrison has always been a force off the bench for the Bulls and she will push for starting minutes this season after averaging 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing an average of 10.2 minutes/game last season.
The seven newcomers to the Bulls will look to make an immediate impact after the fraduation of the most successful senior class in UB history. Memphis transfer Finess Dickson will be in a competition with her sister, Aireal Dickson, and Hall for the starting point guard spot after becoming immediately eligible after her transfer this offseason. Oceane Kounkou will provide the Bulls with a shooting threat on the offensive end of the court and some great length defensively at her guard position. The Bulls heavily recruited height this season as Keowa Walters, Adebola Adeyeye, Zena Elias and Alexis Adams each have a great opportunity for minutes down low for UB. Walters has the size and skillset to become a big time player for the Bulls while Adeyeye has the length and athleticism to also make an impact right away. Alexis Adams and Zena Elias have made strides in the right direction and will push for minutes in a youthful frontcourt for UB this season.
Bloomsburg finished last season with a 13-16 overall record and a 10-12 PSAC mark while closing out their regular season with seven straight wins. The Huskies saw their season come to an end in the PSAC Tournament first round but expectations are high this season as they return their top five scorers from a season ago. Leading the way for the Huskies offense is senior guard Alyssa Mack who averaged a team-best 10.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists while only starting 12 games. Junior forward Taylor Montana returns to the Huskies after producing 9.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds while only earning nine starts. Junior Meghan Corridoni will be looking to build off a strong sophomore campaign in which she averaged 7.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while starting 27 games up front.
The Bulls and Huskies have battled in exhibition play in each of the past two seasons with Buffalo owning the dominant 2-0 record over the Division II side. The Bulls have defeated the Huskies by an average of 26.0 points/game over the last two exhibition meetings including a dominant 64-32 victory last season inside Alumni Arena.
Buffalo will have 10 days off before they open up their 2018-19 regular season on the road against Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday, November 11 at 5:00 pm. The Bulls claimed the 76-41 home victory over the Eagles last season.