CLEVELAND, OH – The University at Buffalo women's basketball team led wire-to-wire in a dominating 85-52 win over Kent State in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament on Wednesday. With the win the Bulls move to 21-9 on the year and advance to the semifinals for the fifth straight year.
Cierra Dillard led all scorers with 22 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. Hanna Hall had a breakout performance scoring 16 points, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, while dishing out five assists.
"I knew this was the stage that I had to come through, especially with teams playing the way they're playing against Cierra and Summer and our main players right now, it's important for me to be able to be that third option as well as Courtney Wilkins, a great shooter," sophomore guard Hanna Hall said. "To have that third option, it makes teams really tough to guard us, so I was just locked in and ready for when the ball came."
Also in double-figures for the Bulls were Summer Hemphill, who narrowly missed out on a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds, and Brittany Morrison who finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
It was the first time UB had four players in double-figures since January 5 against Ohio. The 52 points scored by Kent State was the second-lowest total by a Bulls opponent this season.
"I'm just so grateful to be able to be in the locker room with this young team and see them evolve into a special group of young people," head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "We just kept getting better, and today is just a culmination of us deciding we're just going to continue to take steps forward and getting better as a team.
The first quarterfinal game of the day went into overtime, delaying the start of game two, but the extra wait time didn't seem to bother the Bulls as they got off to hot start, opening the game on an 11-0 run, going 4-for-4 from the floor in the early going. Kent State would respond with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 13-7 at the first media timeout but UB countered with a 7-2 run of their own to take a 20-9 lead after one.
After a back-and-forth start to the second, the Bulls broke the game open with a 12-2 run, including a big three from Hemphill to take a 36-16 lead at the 4:32 mark. After the two teams traded baskets over the next few minutes, Dillard came up with a steal and tossed it to Hemphill who laid it in at the buzzer to give UB a 41-21 lead at the break. The Bulls defense was stifling in the opening half, limiting the Golden Flashes to just 9-of-28 (32.1%) shooting, while UB poured it on at the other end of the floor, connecting on 16-of-30 shots (53.3%).
The two teams traded baskets to start the second half before the Bulls broke through with a 7-2 run, including a big triple from Hall, to take a 52-29, at the media timeout. Buffalo continued to pour it on, using a 10-4 run to go up 62-33, and would lead 62-36 after three quarters of play.
Kent State would open the fourth on quarter an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 64-44 at the 6:29 mark but the Bulls never wavered, using a 17-6 run to take their largest lead of the game and that would be all they would need to secure the victory.
The Bulls shot a blistering 50.0% from the floor, including 7-of-16 (43.8%) from beyond the arc, while going 26-of-30 from the charity stripe. Buffalo won the battle of the boards 39-29, scored 19 points off of 14 Kent State turnovers and cashed in 13 points in transition.
Up next, Buffalo will face Central Michigan in the semifinals on Friday, March 15, at 11 a.m. It is a rematch of last year's MAC championship game.