Huskies trailed behind the Buffalo Bulls in 63-52 loss

Andrew Singer

DeKALB | Three days after notching its first win against a MAC East opponent since Feb. 2009, the NIU men’s basketball team fell hard at Buffalo 63-52.

The Huskies never led against the Bulls on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo (13-6 overall, 5-2 MAC) followed a close first half with a dominating second. Guards Zach Filzen and Byron Mulkey combined for 40 of the Bulls’ 63 points.

Coming off a 39-point performance against Akron on Wednesday, NIU guard Xavier Silas struggled through a rough day shooting the ball. The senior went 4-of-15 from the field, but sank 12-of-13 free-throw attempts to finish the game with a team-high 20 points. Silas entered the game as the nation’s second-leading scorer.

“I thought we did a good job of trying to make it difficult for Silas,” said Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon. “He got to the line a lot, but 4-of-15 from the field is tough to force him into because he hasn’t had a lot of games like that.”

The Huskies (7-12, 3-4 MAC) turned the ball over four times in the opening minutes, allowing the Bulls to grab a large early lead. NIU got back to within three following a Michael Patton triple in the dying seconds of the first half.

Both teams shot poorly in the first half. NIU shot 36 percent, while Buffalo knocked down 35 percent of its shots. The Bulls led 27-24 at the half.

Bringing to mind memories of ugly non-conference losses from earlier in the season, NIU committed 12 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. In the Huskies’ victory over Akron last Wednesday, NIU committed only six turnovers the entire game.

Both teams traded buckets early in the second half, but leading 42-37 in the middle of the frame, the Bulls went on a 12-0 run. The Buffalo backcourt buried the Huskies with Filzen and Mulkey hitting shots at will. Filzen finished with a game-high 21 points.

“Their guards are fun to watch,” said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. “I would like to watch them from the stands next time and not from the opposing coach’s bench though.”

NIU cut the deficit to eight with a 10-1 run, but the Huskies were unable to get any closer. Correcting the turnover problem to some extent, NIU committed only five turnovers in the second half.

“It was a tough game but I thought our team battled all the way,” Patton said. “We turned the ball over too many times and we lost track of [Filzen] too often. We just picked a bad day to have a bad day.”

The Huskies return home on Wednesday to host the Bowling Green Falcons at 7 p.m.

Prior to tip off, new NIU football head coach Dave Doeren will be on hand in the Convocation Center’s South Lobby to discuss his first recruiting class. A game ticket for the Huskies’ matchup with the Falcons is required to attend the pre-game reception.