Men’s basketball falls to Bulls


Sophomore Daveon Balls (11) hurries the ball down the court during Saturday’s loss against Buffalo at the Convocation Center.

By Brian Earle

Men’s basketball dropped its fourth straight conference game, 75-67, at the hands of the Buffalo Bulls Saturday at the Convocation Center in a chippy, hard-fought game.

The contest featured 47 total fouls and five technical fouls, which resulted in the ejection of Buffalo guard Joshua Freelove early in the second half.

“I told our guys, just keep competing and play basketball,” said coach Mark Montgomery. “All the pushing, trash talking, walking up on guys, we don’t need that. Hopefully Buffalo, they don’t want that either.

“But when you get five guys out there competing to get the W, and you’re playing for the second time, sometimes those things have a tendency to happen.”

The Huskies (7-11, 1-5 MAC) jumped out to an early 9-2 lead fueled by sophomore wing Darrell Bowie, who scored five of his 14 points during that stretch.

NIU continued to hold its lead until the 9:11 mark in the first half when the Bulls (10-6, 4-2 MAC) tied the game at 15-15 on a layup by forward Javon McCrea. From there, Buffalo took its first lead on a 3-pointer from forward Will Regan to go up 21-19 with 6:42 to play in the first half.

That sparked an 11-4 Buffalo run, as it increased its lead to nine, 32-23, with two minutes remaining in the first half. The Huskies closed the gap to five, as senior forward Aksel Bolin knocked down a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to make the score 34-29.

For the first six minutes of the second half, the Huskies and Bulls traded baskets as the Bulls maintained a six-point lead.

At the 14:16 mark in the second half, Freelove earned his second technical foul and was ejected from the game. Freelove finished with 13 points in 21 minutes.

“So with him gone, I felt like it was time for us to make a run and get over the hump and we don’t have to worry about another double-digit scorer,” Bowie said.

Two minutes later, the Huskies tied up the score at 48-48 on a free throw from junior guard Aaron Armstead. The Bulls quickly retook the lead and pushed it up to six, but with 8:06 left in the game, the Huskies cut the deficit back to two, 54-52, on two made free throws by center Jordan Threloff.

That was the closest the Huskies would get the remainder of the game, as the Bulls were able to close the Huskies out down the stretch by taking care of the ball and hitting their free throws.

“I thought both teams competed hard,” Montgomery said. “It got a little testy out there, but when you have two teams competing, battling, those things happen.

“In the second half we took better care of the ball, we got the game tied up; unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough to finish. I thought we got good enough shots, they just didn’t go in, and Buffalo did enough things down the stretch to hang on.”

Bolin led the Huskies with a season-high 17 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes, while McCrea paced the Bulls with 20 points and nine rebounds.