Defense Keys Late Run to Victory
DEKALB, IL – A big run late in the game proved to be the difference in the Buffalo women's basketball team's 63-52 win at Northern Illinois Thursday evening. Despite a slow night shooting, the Bulls were efficient on offense and let the defense do the talking, committing just nine turnovers while holding the Huskies to just 28 percent shooting from the field. The win is the third in a row and first on the road in Mid-American Conference play this season. Both teams are now 3-3 in the MAC, with the Bulls now at 10-7 overall and NIU 7-9.
In the first half, neither team staked a major claim of the lead, with the Huskies only leading by three points early in the half and UB earning a four-point lead at the 10:55 mark on a three pointer from Gupilan, who would lead the team with six points at the break. It would be the long ball that helped the Bulls in the half, as they would make 4-11 to help offset a significant advantage on the blocks for NIU. The home side enjoyed a 22-15 advantage in rebounds in the first half, leading to eight second-chance points.
The Bulls took just a 24-23 lead into halftime, but the Huskies would come out hot to start the second half. The one point lead for UB would soon turn into NIU's biggest lead of the night, 29-24, before 90 seconds had passed. Buffalo would trust in its defense, though, and would respond for a 14-2 run over the next eight minutes of game time to retake the lead for good. In that stretch, Northern Illinois would shoot 1-11 and commit four turnovers while Jenna Rickan would take over for a spell and score all seven of her points in that time to fire up her teammates.
Needing an answer, Northern Illinois would hit its first field goal in over six minutes of game time at the 8:18 mark to pull within five, 40-35, but Buffalo would go on another run to put the game well out of reach. A 13-2 run from that point until the 2:17 mark would put the Bulls up by 16, and it would take its biggest lead of the game at the 1:05 mark with a 59-41 advantage. The team emptied its bench for the final minute, and the Huskies would finally find room to shoot, hitting three straight threes in the final 30 seconds to rob the UB defense of a season-best performance in points allowed.
Despite the hot streak in the final minute, NIU would finish at 28 percent for the game, the second time in the last three games that the Bulls held an opponent to under 30 percent from the field. Also aiding in the rout was a relatively mistake-free game from the offense, which committed a season-low nine turnovers, the fewest since Feb. 28 of last season. The Bulls also rallied to even out the rebounding margin after an early advantage for the Huskies, knotting it up at 40-40 in the game.
Mackenzie Loesing would lead the team in scoring with 15 points, and teamed with Gupilan to hold NIU's Amanda Corral to just five points on 2-11 shooting after averaging almost 20 points per game in MAC play. Christa Baccas had a team-high 10 rebounds, and Sharkey would post 14 points and nine rebounds.
Next up will be a Sunday afternoon game at Ball State. The Bulls will look to win another important conference game, and win both games of a conference road swing. The team has not won back-to-back MAC games on the road since 2003. Tip off in Muncie is scheduled for 2 pm EST.