BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team put on a second-half clinic on Tuesday night as the Bulls outscored the visiting Northern Illinois Huskies 59-34 over the final 20 minutes, en route to a 95-67 victory at Alumni Arena. The victory kept the Bulls unblemished in league play with a 5-0 record. Overall, it was UB's sixth straight win as Buffalo improves to 13-5.
The Bulls struggled offensively in the first half, but UB still carried a 36-33 lead into the break thanks to a solid defensive effort that saw Northern Illinois shoot just 2-of-9 from three, while sophomore Davonta Jordan and the rest of the Bulls held NIU's leading scorer Eugene German to just two first-half points.
In the second half, the Bulls came out flying, shooting 63.9% from the floor, including 61.5% from behind the arc as they broke the game wide open. UB led by two at 45-43 when the Bulls scored eight straight, including back-to-back threes from Nick Perkins and Montell McRae. The Huskies pulled it within eight, but the Bulls scored another seven in a row, including a thunderous put-back dunk by freshman Jayvon Graves, which electrified the home crowd.
UB continued to build on its lead as a steal from Perkins led to a fast break layup by junior CJ Massinburg to put Buffalo ahead, 73-56, with 6:47 left. The Bulls continued to lead comfortably at 80-64 with 3:40 left, but the Bulls weren't done yet as they ended the night on a 15-3 run. Graves had another highlight to the evening as he picked the pocket of Rod Henry-Hayes and capped off the night with a windmill dunk on the fast break.
Buffalo continued to pour it on getting late three pointers from freshman James Reese and the first career three-pointer from Dominic Johnson, which gave the Bulls their largest lead at 28. Following a pair of NIU free throws, redshirt freshman Brock Bertram hit a jumper in the paint for the final 95-67 score.
"I thought we struggled a little offensively in the first half and maybe took a few too many threes, but our defensive intensity was there and that got us through the first 20 minutes," said head coach Nate Oats. "In the second half our offense started to click like I knew it would, but if we can continue to play defense like that for 40 minutes, we will be tough to beat."
Perkins tied his career high with 26 points as he scored 18 of those after the break. He was efficient from the field, shooting 10-of-15, while knocking down a pair of triples. He also added a block and a steal.
Massinburg added 16 points as he moved into 15th place in school history on the all-time scoring list with 1,077 career points. Graves had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench, as well as a pair of assists and three steals. Junior Jeremy Harris, the reigning MAC East Player of the Week, had 11 points and four assists.
UB's point guard duo of Jordan and senior Wes Clark were both extremely successful dishing out the ball. Jordan had eight assists, to go along with six points and four rebounds. Clark added seven assists to go along with his six points and two steals.
Junior Ikenna Smart had five points, while leading Buffalo with seven rebounds. McRae added five points and four rebounds, while Reese and Johnson each had three and Bertram finished with two.
The Bulls held huge advantages in all of the specialty stats. Buffalo held a 52-24 advantage in the paint, 25-8 on points off turnovers, 12-9 on second chance points, 17-6 on fast break points, and held a big 51-18 advantage in bench points.
The win was UB's 13 straight against Northern Illinois and its 11th straight win over the Huskies in Alumni Arena. While tonight marks Buffalo's first ever 5-0 start to the MAC, it ties the best start as a D-I program to open conference play as UB went 5-0 in 1997-98, its final year in the Mid-Continent Conference.
With its 95 points on Tuesday evening, UB has also now scored at least 80 points in six straight games for the first time since the 1970-71 season.
Following a pair of home victories the Bulls will return to the road Friday night when they face Western Michigan at 7pm in Kalamazoo, MI. That game will air nationally on ESPNU.