Published March 19, 2019
The big reveal didn’t go as planned — thanks to a miscue at ESPN, the brackets for the women’s NCAA Tournament were released several hours before the sports network’s scheduled broadcast and UB’s selection show party at Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill.
But that didn’t dampen the celebration for the Bulls, as they learned — via a group text message — that they’ll play No. 7 Rutgers on Friday in Storrs, Connecticut, as the 10th seed in the Albany Region.
“We ended up finding out who we were playing through our group text,” said junior forward Summer Hemphill. “It wasn’t the way we thought we would find out. It’s pretty different. But we’re blessed to be able to have this opportunity as a team.”
“We’re excited. We’re just excited to be in,” said Coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “We’re excited to be able to dance. We’re excited to get to the postseason.
“We always say there’s four seasons. There’s not winter, summer, spring and fall. It’s preseason, non-conference, conference and now we’re dancing in the postseason.”
UB enters the tournament with a 23-9 record. The Bulls defeated Ohio, 77-61, on Saturday in Cleveland to win their second MAC title in three years. This is the third NCAA appearance for the Bulls in three years. The Bulls got the program’s first at-large bid last season and made the most of it, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history with wins over South Florida and Florida State. UB also made the tournament with an automatic bid as MAC champion in 2016.
Rutgers is 22-9 overall on the season after falling in the Big Ten semifinals to eventual champion Iowa by the score of 72-67. The Scarlet Knights finished off the regular season with a 13-4 mark in Big Ten games.
This will mark only the second meeting between the two schools, with Rutgers winning the only meeting back in 1998.
“Rutgers is a very great defensive team,” Legette-Jack said. “They are led by one of the best coaches in the entire country (Vivian Stringer). She’s a Hall of Famer, has an incredible staff; they’re in the Big Ten, a conference that’s unbelievable. They’re going to be tough.”
The game will air nationally on ESPN2 at approximately 4:30 p.m. Eastern time — a tough situation for Bulls’ fans, as the men start play around the same time against the winner of tonight’s Arizona State-St. John’s game. The men’s game will be nationally televised on TNT.
“So I’m hustling over here (Alumni Arena) from campus, and as I walked in my office, that’s when they flashed that we were playing Rutgers,” UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt said. “And then the first thing I noticed was 4:30 Eastern Time on Friday.”
But watch parties are going to be happening everywhere, including spots like Santora’s, Alnutt said. “We’ll be able to have alternating TVs and just make it a big UB basketball watch party. Not just men and women specific.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be in the spotlight,” he said, “and for our brand to continue to grow. And the national exposure that this university and Western New York get, it’s a good thing.”
The UB Ticket Office is taking ticket order requests for both the men’s and women’s games. All orders will be fulfilled based on BWF Loyalty Point Ranking. In order to receive priority, individuals must be active donors with the Blue & White Fund. The Ticket Office will confirm orders throughout the day.
Single session tickets are $22 for the women. Tickets are $100 or $66 for the men; all orders are for both first- and second-round games. The second-round game will only be charged should the Bulls advance.
For more information, visit NCAA Tournament Central.