DEKALB, IL – It was fitting for the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York men's basketball team that Tuesday was Groundhog Day and like Bill Murray, who lived the same story each day in the movie, the Bulls lived a familiar story by defeating the Northern Illinois Huskies for the 11th straight time. UB sent NIU to their first home loss of the season, snapping a stretch of 15 straight victories at the Convocation Center, with a 90-78 road victory. The Bulls improved to 13-9 on the season and 6-3 in the MAC.
For the second straight game, the Bulls were absolutely on fire to begin the contest, opening the game on a 14-0 run over the first four minutes of action. The Bulls got three pointers from Lamonte Bearden, Willie Conner and Jarryn Skeete during the run. Another long ball from Skeete gave UB a 17-1 advantage and the Bulls took their largest lead of the half with 8:49 left when Conner drained his second triple of the half to put the Bulls up 34-16.
However, the Huskies crept back into the game as the contest turned into a free throw shooting exhibition over the final seven minutes of the half. In all, the teams combined to go to the line 45 times over the opening 20 minutes. The Huskies used an 8-0 run towards the end of the half and pulled as close as six, which was the margin at the break.
In the second half, Northern Illinois scored the first five points to pull within a single point, but the Bulls were resilient, answering with an 11-0 run to regain a 58-46 lead with 16:40 left. The Huskies pulled back within seven with 14:50 left, but an 11-2 run by the Bulls put them back up 72-55 with 12:12 left and Northern Illinois was never able to get closer than 12 for the remainder of the contest.
"I thought this was the second game in a row that we came out really strong and got out to a big lead," said head coach Nate Oats. "We kind of let them back into it at the end of the first half there, but we were able to get back out to the big lead in the second half and that's a big credit to our guys."
Bearden tied his career-high with 23 points in the game, while also adding seven rebounds and seven assists. He went 9-of-10 from the free throw line, while also adding three steals. Freshman CJ Massinburg had 16 points and seven rebounds, while adding five assists.
Conner and freshman Nick Perkins each added 14 points, while Perkins also had seven boards in the victory. Junior Blake Hamilton had eight points and seven rebounds despite only playing 17 minutes due to foul trouble. Skeete added seven points, including a couple of three-pointers.
The Bulls went to line a season-high 44 times, finishing 32-of-44 from the charity stripe as the teams combined to shoot 84 free throws in the game.
Having now concluded a stretch of six of the first nine conference games on the road, the Bulls will begin a season-long three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon when they host Eastern Michigan at 3:30 pm. It will be the second game in a doubleheader with the UB women.