DEKALB, IL (UB Press Release) – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team gutted out a tough 75-67 victory at Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon, putting three players in double figures as they won their 10th game of the season and they improve to 4-2 in MAC play.
The game was highly-contested throughout as the host Huskies got out to the early 9-2 lead, which was due in part to early turnovers from UB, who had six before the first media timeout. However, the Bulls got their offense in synch and they were able to do something that plagued them on Thursday, which is make three pointers.
The Bulls hit five of their first six shots from deep, including a pair from junior Will Regan, as they opened a nine-point first half lead at 32-23 with 2:10 left. Northern Illinois scored the final four points of the half as UB went into the break, up 34-29.
Buffalo regained its nine-point lead early in the second half, but a little scuffle turned into three technical fouls being handed out, including a pair to UB. The Bulls led by six with 14:16 left when a second technical was called on Joshua Freelove, who finished the day with 13 points. The loss of Freelove called on the emergence of other individuals and the Bulls got that from senior Auraum Nuiriankh and freshman Deyshonee Much.
The Huskies came back to tie the game up at 48-48, but the Bulls went on a 6-0 run, capped off on a fast break layup from freshman Shannon Evans. Northern Illinois cut it back to two, but Evans hit another big shot, getting a friendly roll on a three-pointer to put UB back up five.
NIU cut it back to four with 3:01 left, but senior Javon McCrea answered with a thunderous dunk along the baseline to put the Bulls back up by six. The Huskies didn't get any closer than five as UB hit seven of its final 10 free throws, including a 4-for-4 performance from Regan.
"It was a great team win for us today and I am happy with the way we responded after Thursday," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "Anytime you can win on the road in the league you have to be happy and we had a lot of different guys step up this afternoon."
McCrea had his second straight 20-point game as he finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, including 13 of those points coming in the second half. Freelove finished with 13 points as he was 6-of-7 from the floor. Regan added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Senior Jarod Oldham had seven points despite being in foul trouble for most of the day. Evans stepped into his place and had eight points, five assists and two steals. Sophomore Justin Moss gave really good minutes in the first half as he had six points and Nuiriankh finished with five points and three rebounds. All nine players that saw action found the scoring column as Much had two points and one big offensive rebound on a late missed free throw from the Bulls.
The Bulls shot a season-best 55.6% from the floor, including 54.5% from three-point range. After a tough start with turnovers, UB turned it over just four times in the second half. Defensively, the Bulls held Northern Illinois to 34.5% shooting and just 3-of-17 from three-point range as they continue to be stellar at three-point defense.
The Huskies were led by 17 points from Aksel Bolin and 14 points from Darrell Bowie.
UB returns home on Wednesday night as they host Western Michigan at 7:00pm.