There will be no Mid-American Conference championship for Miami University’s women’s basketball team this season.
The record-setting careers of Courtney Osborn and Kirsten Olowinski may have ended Wednesday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena as the RedHawks made a disappointing exit from the MAC tournament, suffering an 82-70 second-round loss to Buffalo.
“We were very tight, very hesitant. We were looking for each other to do things instead of just playing our game and relaxing,” MU coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “Congratulations to Buffalo. They played like they had nothing to lose. They outworked us.”
Olowinski tallied a season-high 25 points and seven rebounds for sixth-seeded Miami, while Osborn collected 19 points, six assists and three steals.
Buffalo, the No. 7 seed, pulled away from a 30-all halftime deadlock behind freshman guard Mackenzie Loesing, who poured in 19 of her career-high 24 points after the break.
Fantanarosa believes the RedHawks (19-12) still have a reasonable shot at the WNIT or Women’s Basketball Invitational.
“I’m optimistic that the whole body of work is going to be evaluated,” Fantanarosa said. “Winning at Duquesne, beating a good Bowling Green team twice, those are key wins. We’ll get (Erica) Almady and (Kristin) Judson back (from injuries) next week, so if you really do your homework, we’re at full strength again if we do get a postseason bid.
“Emotionally, these women are resilient. They worked hard every day. I know we get graded on wins and losses, but what they’re going to gain as student-athletes and as people at Miami going throughout this year and how they were there to support each other, that’s the kind of team that deserves a postseason opportunity to put the stamp on the end of their year.”
And if Wednesday was the end of the 2012-13 road?
“Nineteen wins — that’s a good year by anybody’s standards,” Osborn said. “With the injuries and some of the adversity that we faced off the court, it’s been such an emotional year for us. I wouldn’t want to go to battle with any other team. I know that every single person on this team gave their heart today, and I think that’s something that we can fall back on.”
MU fell Wednesday in large part because of critical turnovers and a propensity to give up offensive rebounds down the stretch. With Almady and Judson sidelined, the RedHawks didn’t have much of a post presence beyond Olowinski.
Buffalo (12-19) started to pull away midway through the second half and weathered a couple Miami surges to defeat MU for the second time in three tries this year.
Kristen Sharkey (14 points, eight rebounds), Margeaux Gupilan (13 points) and Christa Baccas (eight points, 15 boards) were all key figures for the Bulls, but nobody was bigger than Loesing, who prepped at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati.
“At the beginning of the game, she was too high, so we subbed her very quickly to tell her to come down,” UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “She came back in and realized that we had 20 minutes to make a statement, and she stayed poised. One of her teammates gave her the nickname Truck, and we knew that was going to go forward.”
Loesing also had a big game in Buffalo’s win at Millett Hall this season. She said it was “a coincidence” that she played well against the school that’s not far from her hometown.
“It’s nice to be able to play well against a team that you’re familiar with and you’ve known your whole life, but I go into every game hoping to have a game like I did tonight,” Loesing said. “I definitely think it was just circumstances.”
She had three rebounds and three steals, hitting 3 of 5 shots beyond the arc.
“I think in the second half I just knew that I had to push,” Loesing said. “I knew that my team needed more from me. I couldn’t have done as well as I did tonight without passes from my teammates. I had a couple bad shots that Sharkey rebounded for me and put right back up for a couple points. Same thing with Christa Baccas.”
Added Legette-Jack, “It’s great to get somebody like her out of the state of Ohio. (If there’s) anymore, we’re open to talk.”
The Bulls surprised Miami with some man-to-man defense, prompting this comment from Fantanarosa: “That inside presence on offense, we didn’t have enough of it. If we had that (with Almady and Judson), I don’t know that we would’ve seen as much man.”
Buffalo shot 47.4 percent from the floor, 38.1 percent from 3-point range and 74.1 percent (20 of 27) from the foul line. The RedHawks shot 43.9 percent from the field, 41.2 percent from distance and 62.5 percent (5 of 8) from the charity stripe.
UB advances to face No. 3 seed Akron on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just another step towards what we’re trying to create here at Buffalo,” Legette-Jack said. “At the beginning of the year, we knew that we were going to lose some games because we were trying to build a foundation of what we stand for. That’s character first, academics second, and then basketball.
“So we took care of the other two pieces, and the third piece really didn’t come until (toward) the end of nonconference. Then our leading scorer got hurt, and we had to readjust. Today is just a culmination of all the things we’ve been learning.”
Miami got nine points from Haley Robertson, seven points from Maddie McCallie, six points and five boards from Hannah McCue, and four points, five caroms, four steals and three assists from Hannah Robertson.
Olowinski said MU picked a bad time to turn in a mediocre performance.
“At this point in time, you can’t have those,” she said. “You need to come out on a mission every game regardless of who you play. We just didn’t come out and do what we’ve been doing, what we’ve been proven to be able to do.
“We’ve always had people that showed they can step up. Our chemistry has definitely stuck together regardless of injuries and who was actually out there. I think that’s really important. It showed a lot of character.”
Legette-Jack heaped praise on Fantanarosa — “One of the best coaches in our conference, arguably in the country. Her staying power at Miami of Ohio is just unbelievable,” she said — and Miami’s only two seniors.
“Osborn and Olowinski, you cannot say enough about those two young ladies,” Legette-Jack said. “They have absolutely put the MAC on the map. We’re humbled by their greatness, and we need to honor them by continuing to grow the MAC on the women’s side of the ball because they left their print in this conference.”
Fantanarosa would love for this group to get one more chance to win a title.
“This has been one of my favorite teams in my 15 years at Miami as a coach,” she said. “It’s a team that represents Miami University at that highest level as people, as students and as athletes. We’re going to leave here disappointed, but we’re proud of these young women.”