Women’s Basketball opens season, aims to close the gap

Staff Report

The Buffalo State women’s basketball team looks to find consistency after an up-and-down 2015-16 season (10-15, 6-12 in SUNYAC). Head coach Kevin Clifford is now in his second season with the Bengals and feels his team has made strides.

“There is no offseason,” Clifford said hours before the team’s first game at Medaille on Tuesday. “We call it the improvement season. This preseason, the leaders ran it, the captains. So they worked out a couple of days a week, weight lifting, open gym – we call it open competition.

“… Oct. 15 was the first day we were allowed to do tryouts, so from September to October, they were working out on their own as a team… They came in shape and we are ready to go.”

The Bengals need players to step up to close the gap. The losses of last year were due to inconsistent play. On the road against New Paltz on Jan. 23, the Bengals lost in a difficult 92-61 game. However, at home it was a different story. Though Buffalo State still lost at home later in the season (Feb. 19), it was by a score of 73-67.

Some players will make a push to bring the Bengals to the next level.

“I would say Caleh McLean,” Clifford said of which player could have a breakout season. “She is a junior; she was a walk-on her freshman year. She was working hard and playing well. A lot of people didn’t know who she was until late in the season last year. She kind of blossomed. She went from 1 point per game to 7 points a game last year.”

And when a new season begins, players are either fresh or still recovering.

“We were 5-1 last year before Taylor Graham got hurt,” he added. “That kind of hurt us. We didn’t have a true point guard. She’ll be back… I think we are pretty deep and pretty versatile.”

The season kicks off Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the Medaille Mavericks. The two teams met last season, Nov. 17, a game the Bengals won, 82-68. This game’s purpose is to help teams get the fundamentals down before the conference stretch of games begin in early December.

“We don’t give them wins and losses, in terms of goals,” Clifford said on the team’s focus. “We did tell them to be top 5 in the conference. Today’s game, we just want to try to buy in what we’re doing, our philosophy. We tell them to play hard, have player movement, be unselfish.

“Our big thing this year is defense. We are going to emphasize on defense. So we want to see their effort, their energy on defense.”

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