UB women reflect on historic season

Stepahnie Reid (center) leaps to make a basket during the game against South Carolina.

The UB women's basketball team's record-setting season came to an end Saturday during the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo: Alex Odachowski


Published March 25, 2018 This content is archived.

“We fought all the way to the end, to the last second, and that's what we take pride in. ”
Stephanie Reid
Senior Guard

For almost the full 40 minutes on Saturday, UB fought – and kept up with – the defending national champion in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Sophomore Summer Hemphill hit the deck multiple times, scrapping for loose balls, and pestered South Carolina’s 6-foot-5 All-America forward A’ja Wilson all game before fouling out.

Cierra Dillard poured in the points (29 in all) and delivered a jaw-dropping pass to senior Stephanie Reid that made its way to No. 8 on the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 plays of the day.

And head coach Felisha Legette-Jack was in usual form – fiery, focused and motivating, until, with 41 seconds left and the game out of reach, she embraced a tearful Reid coming off the floor for the final time in her outstanding career.

The 11th seeded Bulls’ magical, record-setting season ended with Saturday’s 79-63 loss to No. 2 South Carolina, but not before Buffalo showed the nation why UB basketball is so special, and why the Bulls belonged on college basketball’s biggest stage.

“I think that they are going to remember us, and that’s what we wanted to do. Win or lose, we want them to remember who we are and to know that they played Buffalo for 40 minutes and we didn’t stop fighting at any point,” said Reid, who finishes her career as UB’s all-time assists leader. Reid’s five assists on Saturday moved her into seventh-place all-time in career assists in Mid-American Conference (MAC) history with 679.

“We fought all the way to the end, to the last second, and that's what we take pride in. Yeah, they won the rebound battle. Yeah, they were huge. But we have big hearts and we went out proud of who we are,” Reid added.

Proud was the word many Bulls supporters used when interviewed by UBNow at halftime and after the game.

“I told my granddaughter I appreciate her bringing me along for the NCAA Sweet 16,” said Patti Jones, the grandmother of junior Autumn Jones. She was among a contingent of about 20 Bulls fans that made the 12-hour drive from Autumn’s hometown of Indianapolis to attend Saturday’s game. “I said even if you don’t win, you guys are still one of the top 16 basketball teams in the nation. You’ve accomplished a whole lot,” Patti Jones added.

Several of Legette-Jack’s former teammates at Syracuse were in the stands to show their support. “It was an exciting game. It shows that a mid-major playing at a high level can compete with anybody in the country,” said Sue Ludwig, who starred alongside Legette-Jack in the mid-1980s. “They competed hard and they were in the game until the end. They epitomize what Felisha’s all about: heart and perseverance and playing until the end.”

UB Bulls' Dillard dribbles the ball past South Carolina players.

UB's Cierra Dillard dribbles the ball past South Carolina players. Photo: Alex Odachowski

Dillard started the game hot, scoring 13 points in the first quarter to help UB take a 17-16 lead after the first frame. But the Gamecocks’ size began to take over in the second quarter and South Carolina led at the half, 40-31.

UB’s unrelenting defense helped the Bulls close the gap in the third quarter as they pulled within five, but that was as close as UB would get. South Carolina went on a 12-4 run to build up a double-digit lead they held the rest of the way.

Bulls players were clearly disappointed with the loss, but managed to maintain perspective on the bigger picture of what they accomplished this season. UB went 29-6 overall, setting a program record for wins, while advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. This was just the second NCAA Tournament appearance for UB, which bowed out in the first round in 2016 at Ohio State.

UB’s 16 MAC victories this season also set a program record. In addition, the Bulls went 12-0 at home, earning their first unblemished season at Alumni Arena in the program’s Division I history.

“We’ve had such a great season that we can’t dwell on losses. We have to look at all the positive things we’ve done all season and all the history we have made,” junior guard Ayoleka Sodade said in the locker room after the game.

“We’ve been trying to put Buffalo on the map all season long, and I believe that we’ve accomplished that goal and we’ll keep this going up next season. Right now we’re feeling the hurt of the loss but as time goes on we’re all going step back and be like wow, we made history by going to the Sweet 16,” she added.

In her post-game press conference, Legette-Jack praised her players’ tenacity and resilience. “I’m so thrilled to go on this journey with these young ladies. What fight, what character,” Legette-Jack said.

“They were so down and they just kept coming and believing and leaving it out there. Just really over the moon when it comes to these young ladies.”