BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo women's basketball team kept its season alive on Saturday evening as it defeated Ball State, 82-73, in the first round of the 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament. The sixth-seeded Bulls now advance to the Quarterfinals in Cleveland, OH where they will face Central Michigan on Wednesday.
The visiting Cardinals shot the ball extremely well all game, shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, however the UB defense played well, forcing 22 Ball State turnovers, 12 of those coming off steals. The Cardinals scored the first five points of the game and had their largest lead of the contest at six just two and half minutes in. The Bulls cut it to one on a three from Brittany Hedderson before Ball State would get the lead back to five at 17-12. The Bulls then went on a 13-4 run to go up by four points and they would not trail for the rest of the game. The Bulls got their lead up to as many as nine in the opening half as senior Kourtney Brown converted on a three point play with 3:38 to go in the half, going up 34-25. Both teams then traded buckets back and forth for the rest of the half, including two amazing drives to the basket from Ashley Zuber to keep the UB lead at nine. Buffalo ended up taking a seven-point lead into the half.
The Bulls led throughout the second half, but it was extremely close as the Cardinals cut the UB lead to one with 13:03 left. Over the next six minutes the teams traded baskets as UB led by no more than four points. Ball State continued to hang in there again cutting it to one point with 5:30 to go before the Bulls went on a game-clinching 8-0 run over the next two minutes, capped off on a layup from Bridgette Kendricks. The Cardinals would get no closer than six as UB finally came away with the 82-73 victory.
"Our intensity was definitely there for 40 minutes tonight and it was great to see that," said head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. "We didn't want this to be the last game for our seniors and it showed in the way we played. We are excited to be going back to Cleveland for the next round."
The Bulls were led by 27 points from Brown, who also added nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals. The nine rebounds give her 352 for the season, breaking her single-season mark from a year ago. Hedderson finished with 16 points and five rebounds, while Jessica Fortman added 15 points, five rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block. Kendricks rounded out the double figure scorers with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Zuber had six points and six assists for UB. The Bulls also got four points off the bench from Nicki Hopkins and Beth Christensen.
The Bulls turned the ball over just eight times, their lowest total since prior to the 2001-02 season. Even more impressive was that UB turned the ball over just two times in the second half.
The Cardinals, who end their season at 9-21, were led by 20 points from Ty'Ronda Benning and 14 points from Ebony Jackson. Benning and Brandy Woody each finished with four assists.
The Bulls are back in action on Wednesday afternoon in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals. They will face Central Michigan at 2:30 pm at Quicken Loans Arena.