DEKALB, IL – After trailing by as many as nine with two minutes remaining, the University at Buffalo women's basketball team was able to force overtime but fell just short on Saturday afternoon at Northern Illinois, 86-84. Cierra Dillard drilled a pair of three-pointers in the final 30 seconds to force overtime as she finished with a team-high 18 points in the loss.
Trailing 70-61 with two minutes remaining, the Bulls began their comeback as Autumn Jones hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 70-64. Stephanie Reid then stole a pass and fed Summer Hemphill for a layup to make it a four-point game. After a couple NIU free throws made the score 74-68 with under 30 seconds to play, Dillard hit her first big triple of the game to make it 74-71 in favor of the Huskies. After the defense forced another turnover, Dillard hit a contested three to tie the game at 74 and the Bulls tightened down on defense to force overtime.
Buffalo took control early on in overtime as Reid hit back-to-back threes and Dillard drilled her fourth triple of the game to make the score 83-79 in favor of the Bulls. A northern Illinois layup and free throw cut UB's lead to one before Katherine Ups hit a free throw to help UB maintain the 84-82 lead with under a minute to play. Mikayla Voigt was then able to regain the lead for NIU as she drained a deep triple to make the score 85-84. Buffalo was unable to score and the Huskies made a free throw to make it 86-84. With the final chance to score, Brittany Morrison saw her layup attempt rim off the back iron and out as the Huskies survived with the 86-84 overtime victory.
The Buffalo offense got off to a great start on Saturday afternoon as Cassie Oursler was a huge presence down low for the Bulls. Oursler scored eight of the first 11 points for UB as they raced out to the 11-5 lead through three minutes. Oursler then finished off a layup and free throw after a great feed from Stephanie Reid to send the teams to the first media timeout with UB leading 16-10. Out of the break, Cierra Dillard found Oursler for a layup with one of her trademark no-look feeds that fooled the defense as UB hung onto the 20-12 lead. Summer Hemphill finished off a fancy layup after another Dillard no-look feed as UB took the 25-16 lead into the second quarter.
The Huskies had a strong start to the second quarter as they were able to open on a 9-0 run to tie the game just over two minutes into the quarter, 25-25. Katherine Ups put an end to the run as she drilled a jumper and Dillard converted on a layup to make the score 29-25 in favor of the Bulls. Buffalo extended their lead to five, 33-28, as Dillard found Hemphill for a fast break layup but the Huskies responded with seven straight to take the 35-33 lead. The Huskies took the three-point lead with a layup and free throw but Autumn Jones earned a steal and layup to close out the half and send the teams to the locker room with the score 40-39 in favor of the home team.
The Buffalo defense stepped up in the third quarter after Courtney Woods made back-to-back buckets to give the Huskies the four point lead, 47-43. Reid responded with a quick layup and free throw, Jones drilled a three and Dillard earned a steal and layup to spur a 10-2 run for the Bulls, giving them the 53-49 lead. The UB defense forced 10 turnovers in the quarter and closed out the scoring with a Reid layup and Hemphill free throw to take the 56-53 lead into the fourth.
The Huskies opened the fourth quarter strong as they were able to regain the 63-58 lead after going on a 10-2 run. After a pair of Katherine Ups freebies got UB within three, the Huskies took control and pushed the game out to a 70-61 edge before the Bulls made their comeback to force overtime down the stretch.
Buffalo had three players earn double-doubles for the first time in a game since November 18, 2014 against Saint Francis (PA). Reid finished off her afternoon with 14 points, 11 assists, six steals and four rebounds across a season-high 43 minutes as she has now notched 10+ assist games for the first time in her career and 12th time overall.
Oursler started the game out strong and finished with 16 points, a career-high 12 rebounds, four blocks and two steals while Hemphill notched 14 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three blocks off the bench in the loss. Dillard finished with a team-best 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal while going 4-for-11 from deep.
As a team, Buffalo held the 40-28 edge in scoring in the paint and also held the slim 59-58 edge in rebounds. The Huskies were able to shoot a higher percentage from the floor than the Bulls as they shot 35.5% compared to 33.7% for UB. UB was able to force 29 Huskie turnovers but they were only able to turn those chances into 19 points.
The Bulls will return home on Wednesday night as they welcome MAC East foe Miami (OH) to Alumni Arena for a 7:00 pm showdown.