Smith powers Bulls to MAC tourney win over Bowling Green, 61-45

Posted at 9:25 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 23:49:00-05

Step one of history repeating itself began Monday night at Alumni Arena.

The UB Women's Basketball team opened the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament the same way they began their title run a year ago, with a win over Bowling Green.

Senior Joanna Smith, with a little bit of revenge, scored 22 of her 24 points in the second half to power the Bulls to a 61-45 win over the Falcons, who defeated the Bulls at Alumni nine days ago on Senior Night.

In the first half, Smith scored only two points but saw her squad take a 27-19 lead into the break.  Fellow guard Stephanie Reid helped shoulder the load, scoring all 12 of her points in the opening 20 minutes.

After missing the first three shots of the second half, and with Bowling Green pulling within 27-24 over the Bulls, Smith took over.

"Just all around inside-outside game," she said.  "The layups started going and then three started going."

"No frustration in her face. No quit in her face and her defense turned up a little bit more because her shot wasn't falling," Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack added.  " That's the sign of a senior that understands her teammates are with her and she doesn't have to do it alone.  But, if she takes them or misses them, we still have a chance when she puts it in the air."

So, now the Bulls head back to a familiar place to try and be the first team since Bowling Green during the 2010 & 2011 campaigns to repeat as MAC Champions.  The target is squarely on their back.

"It's something we're starting to embrace as of late. I don't think we really understood it early on in the season because we'd come out people would 'punch us in our face', Smith said jokingly. "And, we're like 'why are people are punching us in the face? Well, well, we just won a MAC championship.' Now that we have to embrace that people are coming at us."

"We're excited to be able to play in March," Coach Jack added.  "A lot of teams aren't playing anymore and we have an opportunity to survive and advance."

The Bulls will now face off against 2nd seeded Ball State in the conference quarterfinals.  The Cardinals handed UB a 14-point loss in their only matchup during the regular season.  Tip-off in Cleveland is set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday.