Miami University’s quest for a women’s basketball championship continues Wednesday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena.
The RedHawks were picked to win the Mid-American Conference East Division this season, but finished third during the regular season. Now they face a second-round MAC tournament game against Buffalo, a team they’ve split with this year.
“I think the team personality right now is very focused on the present,” MU coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “We’re a much better team than we were a month ago. We need to keep this momentum going and ride the coattails of the seniors.”
Miami (19-11) and UB (11-19) won on each other’s floors, the RedHawks 69-56 on Feb. 20 in Buffalo and the Bulls 78-70 on Jan. 31 in Oxford.
MU has won five of its last six games powered by the senior tandem of guard Courtney Osborn (19.1 ppg) and forward Kirsten Olowinski (11.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg).
“We certainly know that we can’t play them one-on-one because Osborn is too good for anybody on our team, and their post player is a veteran who knows how to read screens and run the floor and use her energy effectively for 40 minutes,” UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “We have to do it collectively. We like to play our zone defense and see if we can guard them as a gang.”
Legette-Jack said her squad played “with no apprehension” at Millett Hall, yet didn’t have the same mentality at Alumni Arena.
“Some of the players got really cerebral and started overthinking the process too much,” Legette-Jack said. “That hurt us.”
Freshman guard Mackenzie Loesing, from St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, leads Buffalo’s balanced scoring attack with an 11.4 average.
The Bulls like to shoot from distance. They’re shooting 30.0 percent beyond the arc and have launched 176 more treys than Miami this season.
“They want it to be a balanced inside-outside attack, but they do a lot of their damage outside,” Fantanarosa said. “Recently, 35 percent of their shots are free throws, just driving on people. You take away the 3 and they try to drive or pound it inside.”
For the RedHawks, junior forward Kristin Judson will be out at least through the MAC tournament with a foot injury. Junior forward Erica Almady is coming back from a concussion and is questionable for Wednesday’s game.
The Bulls have also had their share of injuries this season. Their first-round win over Northern Illinois was Buffalo’s sixth victory in MAC tournament play.
“We’re just kind of giddy about being part of this thing,” Legette-Jack said. “I think we’re getting them to play a little bit more free and be a part of the journey as opposed to being afraid of the next step toward the journey.”
Wednesday’s winner will advance to play Akron on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.