AMES, IA – The University at Buffalo women's basketball team was able to overcome an early seven-point deficit, using a balanced effort to defeat NJIT, 66-53, in the opening round of the Cyclone Challenge, Thursday night at the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University. The win improves UB's record to 5-8 on the year.
The Highlanders scored the first seven points of the game as UB did not find the scoring column until the 6:41 mark when freshman Christa Baccas put home a layup. NJIT continued to lead 10-4 when the Bulls responded with four straight points. A jumper by senior Ephesia Holmes at the 10:15 mark gave the Bulls their first lead, but neither team led by more than two points over the final 10:21 of the first half. The Bulls scored the final points of the opening half with 3:12 left, taking a one-point lead into the break.
The Bulls came out to open the second half on a 5-0 run, taking a six-point lead. UB led by seven at 48-41 with 10:40 left, but NJIT went on an 8-0 run over the next four minutes, capped off on back-to-back three pointers. The Highlanders led by two with 6:22 left when redshirt sophomore Nytor Longar hit back-to-back jumpers, putting UB up by two. After a jumper from senior Beth Christensen put UB up four, senior Teresa Semalulu sealed the deal for the Bulls as she recorded back-to-back fast break layups off of steals at half court, which put the Bulls up eight. After the Highlanders pulled to within six, the Bulls answered as Margeaux Gupilan banked in a three pointer as time expired on the shot clock, which put UB up nine. The Bulls would go on to score the final seven points of the contest.
"I thought that after the slow start we came out and did a lot of things well for the remainder of the game," said head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. "We got some great minutes from Nytor and Teresa and they were a big reason for our victory today."
The Bulls were led by a career-high 19 points from Longar, who was playing near her hometown with friends and family in the stands. Longar added eight rebounds, two steals and a block. Brittany Hedderson struggled from the floor, but ended up with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.
Semalulu had arguably the best game of her career with career highs of 11 points and six steals. She also added six rebounds. Christensen, who also had a huge section of family and friends, finished with a career-best 14 rebounds, adding two points, two assists, a block and a steal.
Gupilan continued her strong play as of late with eight points and a career-best seven assists. It is the third time in three games that the Sun Valley, CA native has either tied or broken her career high in assists. Baccas added six points and seven rebounds, picking up her second straight start. In all, seven of the eight players that saw action scored.
For the third time this season, and second game in a row, the Bulls eclipsed the 50-rebound plateau with 52 boards on the night. UB also had a season-low 14 turnovers, breaking that total for the second straight game. The 14 steals by the Bulls were a season-high as well.
UB will continue play at the Cyclone Challenge tomorrow as it will face the winner of tonight's Iowa State-New Hampshire game in the tournament final. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 pm EST.