Slow start burns Huskies in loss to Buffalo


Tim Dodge

Senior guard Darweshi Hunter attempts a layup in NIU’s 85-75 loss on Feb. 28.

By Zachary Bertram, Senior Sports Reporter

DeKALB – A dominant first half led the University at Buffalo to an 85-75 win over the Huskies. Buffalo shot 58% from the field in the first half, while holding NIU to 34% shooting in the first 20 minutes en route to clinching a spot in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament. 

With the win, Buffalo (14-16, 8-9 MAC) passed NIU (12-18, 8-9 MAC) for sixth place in the standings by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.

Sophomore guard Curtis Jones and junior forward Isaiah Adams led the way for the Bulls, scoring 21 and 20 points respectively. Jones added five rebounds and four assists, while Adams contributed six rebounds and three assists. 

Rebounding was key in Buffalo’s win, as they outrebounded the Huskies 39-25. Buffalo grabbed eight offensive rebounds, while the Huskies grabbed three, leading to the Bulls outscoring the Huskies 9-2 in second-chance points. 

“You have to be tough in these games,” NIU men’s head basketball coach Rashon Burno said. “They’re (Buffalo) a bigger team, they outweighed us and had height on us in every position. We have to show grit, these games are nasty.”

Sophomore guard David Coit returned to the lineup for the Huskies off the bench after missing the last three games with a hamstring strain. Coit managed to score a team-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

“It felt great being back out there playing,” Coit said. “Obviously it’s been tough watching the last few games, knowing I could impact the game. But I felt that as soon as I came out at practice yesterday, they (Coit’s teammates) made me feel welcomed back. It felt great being back with the brothers.” 


Buffalo used a mix of efficient shooting and lock-down defense to jump out to a 42-26 halftime lead. The Bulls shot 18-for-31 from the field in the first half, while holding NIU to 9-for-26 from the field. 

“The one thing you can’t do is not defend,” Burno said. “We didn’t defend … We didn’t do the things that we needed to do to get stops. When you start (the game) OK on offense, you have to be exceptional on defense, especially with a team that’s tied for second in scoring in league play.”

A slow start plagued NIU as they scored just four points in the first five minutes, allowing Buffalo to jump out to an early 14-4 lead. 

“We struggled coming out strong,” Coit said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with throughout the year – some games we come out strong, some games we don’t.”

Adams led the way for the Bulls in the first half, scoring 13 points on 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

Buffalo dominated NIU in the paint, outscoring the Huskies 24-8 from close range. The Bulls outrebounded the Huskies 19-11 in the first half.

Coit was the lead man for the Huskies at the half, scoring nine points on 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Senior guard Kaleb Thornton added seven points and two assists at the break. 

“It’s been a blessing all season, (playing with Coit) not just now, but the whole year,” Thornton said. “He’s had my back in times I might be down or might not have the energy to do my job as I’m supposed to. He’s always been there to pick me up, so having him back is something that we needed going into Cleveland.”


The Huskies outscored Buffalo 49-43 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to muster a comeback. 

“Every situation that you’re in when the ball is live, you have to play hard,” Burno said. “I don’t think we played hard for 40 minutes, I thought we gave a 15 to 20-minute effort.”

NIU used a 13-4 run midway through the period to cut the Buffalo lead to 70-63 with 3:56 remaining. The Bulls immediately responded with six straight points, ending the Huskie threat. 

Junior forward Jonnivius Smith did his part down the stretch for Buffalo, scoring six of his 10 points in the final four minutes. 

Jones did a lot of his damage for the Bulls in the final 20 minutes, scoring 11 points in the second half. Senior guard Darweshi Hunter countered for NIU, scoring all 18 of his points in the second half.

“We have to do better at learning how to win and being a winning program,” redshirt senior forward Anthony Crump said. “Winning programs – when they clinch a playoff spot – they’re not too high (or) not too low about it. We have to be how we’ve been all season winning games.”


The Huskies’ final game of the regular season will be at home against Eastern Michigan University at 7 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center. NIU will look to potentially pass Buffalo for sixth place with a win heading into the MAC tournament next week. 

“This is our last game,” Crump said. “Me and Kaleb, this is our third season here and we want to go out with a win. It’ll be our last home game, so we want to end it off on a good note.”

Friday’s game will be streamed on ESPN3 and will be available to listen to via The Varsity Network