20-1 run aids Bulls' comeback

Buffalo overcomes 13-point second-half deficit in win over Northern Illinois

By JEFF PLACITO
On February 16, 2014

  • Freshman forward Alexus Malone had a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds to help the Bulls defeat Northern Illinois, 66-57, Saturday at Alumni Arena. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum

The Bulls (14-9, 7-5 Mid-American Conference) turned a poor first half around to defeat Northern Illinois (8-14, 4-8 MAC), 66-57, on Saturday at Alumni Arena.

The team wore all pink uniforms for the "Play 4 Kay" game to honor former North Carolina State women's head coach Kay Yow, who passed away from breast cancer in 2009.

An 18-5 Northern Illinois run to end the first half put UB on the verge of suffering its second home loss in conference play. But a 20-1 Bulls run midway through the second half put the game back in Buffalo's control.

Buffalo began the game with an early 24-16 lead through the first 12 minutes. Everything seemed to go wrong for the Bulls after that point.

The offense turned the ball over 10 times in the first half. Defensively, Buffalo committed 11 fouls to send the Huskies to the line. The Huskies capitalized, going 7 for 7, as foul trouble hampered some of Buffalo's best players.

Junior forwards Christa Baccas and Kristen Sharkey and sophomore guard Mackenzie Loesing each finished the first half with two fouls. 

The Bulls didn't come back immediately out of the break, as the Huskies' lead reached as high as 13 points in the second half. Buffalo was still looking for some kind of spark. That spark came from Sharkey and freshman forward Alexus Malone, as the two combined for 15 points in Buffalo's 20-1 run.

Both players proved critical to the Bulls' comeback performance as they provided 25 of Buffalo's 37 second-half points. Sharkey led the game with 21 points and recorded six rebounds.

"[Head] coach [Felisha Legette-Jack] always says, 'next player up,' so when your number gets called, you better be ready to go," Sharkey said. "I think our team played great today. We knew we had to fight for each other and get the win."

Malone embodied this attitude as she recorded a career-best 20 points, filling the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, six steals and three assists.

"It was amazing, [with] the help of my teammates," Malone said. "We know everything starts with defense, so if you get defensive stops you get offensive buckets."

Buffalo held the Huskies to 30 percent shooting and 20 percent from beyond the arc in the second half. The Bulls not only altered the Huskies' shots, but also caused Northern Illinois to have nine turnovers in the second half and 16 overall. Buffalo blocked six shots, with four coming from Baccas.

Though fouls were a concern for the Bulls in the first half, it was the Huskies who ended up reeling more from foul trouble. Northern Illinois committed 27 fouls with 18 of them in the second half compared to Buffalo's 19 total.

Legette-Jack realized she needed to change up her game plan because her team wasn't able to stop the Huskies in the first half.

"Credit goes to Northern Illinois because they had [a] great game plan against our matchup," Legette-Jack said. "So we had to go to plan three and our zone defense seemed to stifle them."

The Bulls concluded their MAC West division schedule going 5-3 against those teams. Now Buffalo must concentrate on the MAC East teams to gain a top-four seed in the MAC Tournament, which starts March 10.

The Bulls travel to Kent State (5-18, 2-10 MAC) next. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday. 

 

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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