UB 67, Northern Illinois 46
How UB Won: By recruiting better players. This shouldn't have been much of a game and it wasn't. But the Huskies are tougher at home and the Bulls pay DeKalb a visit on Jan. 25.
Turning Point: No one figured a secondary turning point would be forthcoming once UB jumped out to a 16-0 lead through six minutes. But who would have figured that Northern Illinois, a team that's won all of 16 games since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, would draw within four by halftime? When the Huskies did just that the onus was on UB to reestablish command. The Bulls answered with a 16-7 burst to start the second half. Josh Freelove and Javon McCrea keyed it.
Player of the Game: Consider it a positive for the Bulls that there are too many to chose from. Will Regan scored the night's first six points and finished with a game-high 15. Freelove made two big threes early in the second half to settle down the offense. McCrea attempted just five field goals but scored 14 points and set a career high with eight blocks. They all played integral roles.
What It Means: Mark Bobby Hurley down as a winner in his first conference game as a head coach. The Bulls are in a four-way tie for first in the East, improved to 7-4 overall and have won three straight.
Stat Check: Shannon Evans went on a tear during the game-opening run and totaled 11 points. He also had seven of UB's 16 turnovers in 23 minutes. The freshman will come to appreciate that it's not a negative reflection on his ability to make the simple play. And that there's much better guard play in the MAC than what NIU brings to the floor.
Stat Check II: NIU hammered UB for 17 offensive rebounds and managed 14 more field goal attempts. UB has to clean that up. Like by Saturday.
Tech-nicalities: McCrea and Hurley both were hit with T's late in the first half. McCrea was booked for a dead-ball push. It was legit. Officials are cracking down on that kind of gamesmanship, subtle as it was. Hurley was nailed for vehement argument after both coaches were previously warned to zip it. Yes, Hurley had a real beef or two. Evans it appeared was fouled launching a three but instead shot one-and-one because the foul was curiously deemed after the play. But Hurley will catch on that, for a MAC game, the crew did a pretty solid job.
In the House: With students on break and tipoff pushed back to 9 p.m., a crowd of 1,520 on a Wednesday night isn't all that bad, relatively speaking. NIU left home Tuesday, over-nighted in Cleveland and then came into Buffalo. They asked to have the game moved to Thursday. UB resisted. So the game was moved to 9 p.m. for the Huskies even though they had a 6:45 a.m. flight home.
Next Up: Eastern Michigan (9-5) took its trademark zone to Bowling Green Wednesday night and knocked off the Falcons, 56-51. BG shot just 30 percent from the field and 18 percent from three. The Eagles visit Alumni at 2 Saturday and they're anything but an easy out. Four of their five losses are to ranked teams. The other was to Purdue. And EMU has size.
-- Bob DiCesare
taggedCollege basketball | Mid-American Conference | University at Buffalo