An uncharacteristic performance from the Northern Illinois defense led to a 62-46 win for Buffalo on Sunday afternoon’s Alumni Day at the NIU Convocation Center.
The Huskies allowed the Bulls to shoot 45.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, NIU managed to shoot just 27.3 percent on the day.
The win for the Bulls (6-14, 1-5 MAC) marks their first league victory of the season and ends a nine-game slide on the road and five-game slide versus the Huskies (7-11, 1-5 MAC). The victory is also just the third for Buffalo in the all-time series. The Huskies now lead the series 13-3.
NIU entered the game off one of its best defensive efforts of the season to earn its first Mid-American Conference victory of the year at Western Michigan Thursday.
But the momentum did not show up versus the Bulls as Buffalo posted just the fifth game above a 40 percent shooting percentage against the Huskies all season. Furthermore, the Bulls’ 60 percent clip from three-point land was the second highest percentage NIU had given up all season.
“It’s a hard loss to take, playing at home after a win on the road,” said NIU Head Coach Kathi Bennett.
“We played well in stretches but I don’t understand the lack of intensity. We certainly did not play well together today. They started strong, hit every shot. I didn’t think it was bad defense. [Brittany Hedderson] is a very special player.”
The league’s second leading scorer Brittany Hedderson was simply too much to handle for the Huskies. Hedderson was the primary reason the Bulls outscored NIU 35-11 in the game’s first 16 minutes as she scored 16 of her game-high 29 points during the run. She connected on three of four threes as Buffalo opened 7-for-9 from behind the arc and 12-for-20 from the field. Consequently, the Huskies made three of their first 18 shots.
Facing the 24-point deficit, NIU ended the half with an 11-0 run to take momentum into the locker room. But much like the good vibes didn’t carry over from the WMU game, the spurt did not carry over to the second half. Buffalo scored the first seven points of the half to push the lead back to 20, 42-22, with 17:16 left to keep the Huskies down.
NIU would cut the lead to 13 with 3:31 to go, but that was all the closer the Huskies would be able to get.
“They are crazy-skilled and they have three seniors,” Bennett said. “We cut it to 13 [at the half] and we wanted to come out strong in the second half. They beat us the first five minutes and I felt we needed to win those first five minutes of the second half. That set the tone for how we continued to play until the game was out of reach.”
A frustrating advantage that the Huskies did not capitalize on was a 28-19 turnover edge. NIU scored 14 points off UB’s miscues. However, the Bulls scored 16 on NIU’s errors.
“We certainly did not take advantage of their sloppy play,” Bennett said. “It’s not like we didn’t get good looks, but we just struggled to put the ball in the basket.”
On deck for NIU is a trip to Akron, Ohio, to face the Akron Zips at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25.