Freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) scored 11 points, his 10th double figure scoring game of the season, but the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team fell to Buffalo, 74-59, on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center.
Despite holding Buffalo to just 39.6 percent (21-of-53) shooting, NIU shot just 28.1 percent (16-of-57) from the field.
“I thought we came out aggressive and took an early lead, but it didn’t help that both Grays got into foul trouble,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“One played 13 (minutes) and the other played nine (minutes) … You have to give Buffalo credit, both inside guys had double figures, we wanted to slow them down, and they made 11 threes. I thought we had great looks unfortunately our shots just weren’t falling tonight.”
Javon McCrea scored a game-high 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Buffalo. Zach Filzen added 12 points on four three-point field goals and Mitchell Watt chipped in 10 points. Buffalo went 11-of-29 (37.9 percent) from behind the three-point arc while NIU was 6-of-23 (26.1 percent).
NIU jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead as sophomore forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Noway/Asker) nailed a three from the top of the key to give the Huskies the early five-point lead.
With the Huskies leading by a pair, 12-10, Buffalo used a 14-3 run to take a 24-15 lead with 6:17 left in the first half before a turnaround jumper by freshman Jeremiah Jackson (Chicago, Ill./Warren Township) helped slow the run by the Bulls.
The Buffalo lead reached as much as a dozen, 33-21, as the Bulls went on a three-point barrage, making five triples in just over a four-minute stretch. Buffalo took a 37-28 lead into the intermission.
Watt led all scorers with 10 points in the first half for Buffalo; NIU was led by five points from Bolin and junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy).
The Bulls were 12-of-26 from the field (46.2 percent) in the opening 20 minutes while the Huskies shot 29.6 percent (8-of-27).
Out of the intermission, Buffalo scored the first four points to take a 13-point lead, 41-28. The Huskies responded with a 7-3 burst, capped by a Nixon triple, to trim the lead back to single-digits, 44-35, with 16:38 to play.
Nixon finished with eight points and a season-high tying five rebounds.
Buffalo responded with the next four points on a free throw by McCrea and a triple by Filzen. The Bulls lead would reach as much as 25 but the Huskies closed the game on a 12-2 run for the final 15-point margin.
Northern Illinois will remain at home as its brief two-game home stand concludes Wednesday, Feb. 1, when it hosts Ohio University. Game time against the Bobcats is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the NIU Convocation Center.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.