Bulls lose 90-88 to Huskies
Bulls lose steam in second half in OT
The men’s basketball team has been a force on offense this season. They currently average a school record 83.7 points per game. But over their past seven games, they have been unable to hold their opponent to under 40 points in the second half.
The Bulls (18-7, 10-2 MAC) lost Saturday afternoon after blowing a 13 point second half lead. They came in looking to go 8-0 against the MAC West division. With eight minutes to go in the half, Buffalo led the Northern Illinois Huskies (11-14, 4-8 MAC) 72-59, until the Huskies went on a 21-4 run over the next seven minutes.
Led by sophomore guard Eugene German, the Huskies clamped down on defense and forced three turnovers while limiting the Bulls to one free throw made to tie it with just under five minutes remaining. Senior guard Wes Clark helped keep the Bulls in the game, scoring eight of his team-high 21 points during the closing minutes of the second half.
“I think we’ve been talking about closing the games in the last eight minutes and you know we haven’t been very good at it over the last six, seven games before it,” said Buffalo head coach Nate Oats. “I think the fact that our guys still can’t get themselves focused for the last eight minutes ended up costing us two games now cause it cost us that Kent State game.”
The Bulls were able to rally together in overtime as Clark and junior forward Nick Perkins each hit a three pointer to give the Bulls an 88-86 lead with just under two minutes remaining. Buffalo would remain scoreless as German scored the final four points including a clutch layup with three seconds remaining that lifted the Huskies over the Bulls.
“We played pretty good basketball for 32 minutes and built up a 13 point lead, then relaxed for three minutes and it’s all gone,” Oats said.
Buffalo was handed its second loss in four games after starting off 8-0 in conference play. Their last loss was against the Kent State Golden Flashes (12-13, 6-6 MAC) where the Bulls led by 18 points during the second half.
Oats cited the start of the spring semester as a reason for their recent struggles.
“We’re limited, we’re back to being limited to the time we’re allowed with players now that school's in session,” Oats said. “With that six weeks where school was out, we weren’t limited. We were making everyone get in and shoot 100 free throws a day, now they got to do it on their own.”
The Bulls could not maintain their hot shooting in the second half and overtime periods. They shot 20 percent worse over the final 25 minutes, including only three makes on 14 attempts from three.
The most glaring statistic of the afternoon was the Bulls’ free throw shooting. The Bulls shot a season low 42.3 percent from the line with only 11 makes on 26 attempts. Perkins, a career 74.6 percent free throw shooter, made only 5 of 12 in the game; a season low in percentage at 41.7 percent.
Junior guard CJ Massinburg, the leading scorer for the Bulls, opened the scoring for the team with a layup but would only finish with 6 points in 39 minutes, his lowest scoring total of the season.
The Bulls’ bench was strong, scoring exactly half of the team’s points with solid performances by junior forward Montell McRae and freshman guard Jayvon Graves. Huskies’ sophomore guard Justin Thomas had a career high in points with 17.
The Bulls look to rebound on Tuesday in a home game against the Golden Flashes with tip off scheduled for 7 p.m.
Nathaniel Mendelson is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org