In the start of the 16-game Mid-American Conference schedule, Northern Illinois fell 60-53 to Buffalo at Alumni Arena on Thursday night.
The win for the Bulls (3-11, 1-0 MAC) marked the first for them against the Huskies (5-9, 0-1 MAC) at home in the all-time series. Previously, NIU was 6-0 in Buffalo as the Huskies owned a 13-3 edge in the series entering the game.
“We are beating ourselves, and it is very frustrating,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett.
“I thought we played with great heart and hunger tonight, but we are beating ourselves. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. It was an improvement from our last game. We almost did it there at the end, scrambling around. Beating ourselves is something that can get fixed, and we will work on that.”
A season long road trip for NIU that covered more than 3,100 miles from Dec. 22-Jan. 10 produced one win for the Huskies as they lost their fourth straight MAC opener. Helping the Bulls to victory were 20 NIU turnovers that led to 20 points for UB and physical play on offense that gave UB a 25-8 advantage in free throws made and 34-13 edge in free throws attempted.
NIU opened up the game strongly, taking a 10-7 lead after a beautiful pass from Satavia Taylor (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook/Loyola) led Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) to an easy layup. But then the Huskies went cold, missing 10 straight shots over a nine-minute stretch during a 12-0 Bulls run.
Trailing 19-10 after the run, back-to-back threes by Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) and Taylor helped NIU head into the locker room with a 24-18 deficit.
The Huskies started the second half well, too, opening on an 8-2 run over the first five minutes to tie the game, 26-26, thanks to six points from Corral. However, Buffalo answered with a 7-0 spurt over the next 2:20 to keep separation.
Again, three more threes by NIU – this time from Alexis Lindstrom (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove), Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) and Corral – put NIU close again. Corral’s three from the wing made it a 37-35 Bulls lead with 9:28 left in the game.
Over the next eight minutes, though, Buffalo sealed the win with a 19-6 run. During the run, NIU turned the ball over four times and went 2-for-8 from the field while Buffalo went 4-for-7 from the field with two turnovers and converted on 10 of 13 free throws.
NIU nearly pulled off a miracle in the last minute but it was too little, too late.
Putting on a full-court press, NIU forced three UB turnovers and whittled the lead down to five after three pointers from Ashley Sneed (Harvey, Ill./Thornton) and Lindstrom along with two free throws and a layup by Corral. With just a 56-51 lead and 31 seconds left, Buffalo then closed it out at the line by converting on four straight free throws to preserve the win.
Most of the damage for Buffalo was done by Mackenzie Loesing and Kristen Sharkey, who had 20 and 17 points, respectively. Corral led NIU with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a game-high 37 minutes played.
The Huskies return to action this weekend to begin a two-game home stand at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, against Ball State. The game will mark NIU’s first home contest since Dec. 19.