adidas predator green JoAnna Smith leads Bulls

The defending Mid American Conference champions have a deep roster and should have more scoring options than last year.

But Smith, UB’s 5 foot 8 shooting guard, remains Plan A on the offensive end.

“We’re going to rely on her,” said UB coach Felisha Legette Jack. “We’re going through Jo. We’ve taught her this year to go off the bounce a little more and make some decisions off the bounce. We’re going to try to expand her game. She’s our only senior. We’re going to win or lose thorough Jo. Her shoulders are strong enough to handle that.”

Smith averaged 18.3 ppg last year, an increase of 12.8 ppg from her sophomore season. She is outstanding in the open court and a fine shooter. Her 2.9 three pointers per game ranked third in the MAC. She also averaged 6.1 rebounds a game.

“I keep the past in the past,” Smith said. “What happened last year was last year. There’s a whole bunch of things I can get better with, and I can help my teammates to get better, which ultimately will make me better.”

Smith is a good perimeter defender but hopes to be more of a defensive stopper as a senior.

“We talked about that at the end of last season,” she said. “My defense could have been a whole lot better. That’s something I’m keying in on.”

Strengths: Both Smith and junior point guard Stephanie Reid are among the best players in the MAC. The Bulls’ defense is superb thanks to a matchup zone that harasses shooters. UB ranked third in the MAC in points allowed last year (62.2) and third in three point percentage allowed (.301). The Bulls are strong on the boards, too, thanks in part to 6 3 center Cassie Oursler (Grand Island) and forwards Brittany Morrison (5.4) and Katherine Ups (4.7). Morrison, a 5 9 sophomore, was the catalyst to the

O’Hara graduate Summer Hemphill should help give the Bulls a boost in the backcourt. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Bulls’ run to the title last season because opponents could not box her out and she gave a challenged UB offense a ton of second chances. UB is deep. Ten players averaged at least 10 minutes a game. The Bulls expect freshmen Summer Hemphill (O’Hara) and Theresa Onwuka to contribute right away. Hemphill could be “the head of the snake,” playing the top of the UB press. Onwuka is a tight on ball defender.

Issues: UB needs to develop more scoring options behind Smith, Reid and Oursler. Junior Mariah Suchan (3.2) could take a step forward and may start at power forward. She’s 6 1. Both Oursler and Suchan can stretch the floor. So can 6 1 junior Courtney Wilkins. Morrison is a big sparkplug off the bench and could improve on her 5.1 ppg. How much offense can Hemphill produce as a freshman? Sophomore guard Gabi Bade (3.9 ppg) has the skill to score more and will see more minutes.

Inside the numbers: Over the last 11 MAC games, UB held foes to just 53 ppg. Legette Jack’s teams are no fun to face. The Bulls forced the third most turnovers in the MAC (17.8) and got the third most steals (8.9). Legette Jack believes the deep bench helps the defense in the long run.

“It’s about the legs you save,” Legette Jack said. “I’m hoping we can go to 12 deep and be even more special. The intensity of the defense will pick up when Tessy’s in there. She’s in your face.”

Grand Island native Cassie Oursler is part of UB’s formidable inside presence. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Schedule: The non conference schedule is not overly arduous. At Duquesne Nov. 22 is a tough game. Barring injuries, Legette Jack could bea hot commodity after the season. The games against Ohio (Jan. 4 at Athens, Feb. 22 at UB) will be holy wars. Ohio went 16 3 in the MAC last year, with all three losses to UB. MAC favorite Central Michigan visits Jan. 21.
adidas shop JoAnna Smith leads Bulls