Slow Start Once Again Dooms Bulls at Home
The more you watch the Bulls, the more you see the same mistakes being made over and over again.
Buffalo has been plagued by slow starts at home throughout the conference schedule and Sunday night was no different as the team fell at Alumni Arena to Northern Illinois 76-64 before 771 fans.
Buffalo (11-9, 3-6 Mid-American Conference) managed the first two buckets of the game off the hands of Jessica Kochendorfer, but the Huskies (10-11, 6-4 MAC) quickly responded and knotted the score at six.
From that point onward Buffalo looked lackadaisical and could not stop a Husky charge that saw them go on a 14-0 run in a span of just under six minutes. NIU rode that run all the way to a 38-25 first half lead.
"We got shut down so much in the first half because we gave them away on soft turnovers," said Buffalo head coach Cheryl Dozier. "It's been the one Achilles heel for us all year, taking care of the basketball."
During the run, Buffalo surrendered six turnovers on their way to 14 for the half, compared to only nine by the Huskies. Northern Illinois shot the lights out in the half, hitting on 16-28 shots for 57 percent, including 4-9 from behind the three-point arc.
Buffalo got its act together in the second half and slowly but surely cut into the Huskies lead. However, every time Buffalo threatened to make things interesting, Northern Illinois responded with a run of their own.
The Huskies were carried by their junior guard Lindsay Secrest, who hit four three-pointers in the second half and finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-13 shooting, including six three-pointers. She even hit an NBA-range three which was echoed by the PA announcer to the crowd.
"We knew Knake and Secrest were good shooters and we tried to get out on them in the zone," added Dozier. "We didn't get to her soon enough, and you can't do that."
The best chance for UB to seize the momentum came after a Husky turnover and Buffalo trailing by nine. Brook Meunier found an open Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe who drained a three to cut the deficit to six.
On the ensuing possession following a Northern Illinois miss, Brooke Meunier took the rebounded ball from Hollie Cook and dribbled up court. Her momentum, however, was halted as Knake stole the ball as Meunier crossed over, finished an easy lay-up and drew the foul.
"We didn't do a good job ... when we got up to stay up," said McMeeken-Ruscoe. "We didn't stretch our runs long enough to capitalize on them."
That lay-up by Northern Illinois increased their lead to eight and all but sunk the Bulls' spirits. The Huskies continued their hot shooting and virtually made the last five minutes or so feel like garbage time.
Buffalo finished with 26 turnovers for the game, which was well above the 22.4 they had been averaging a game. Once again they also failed to use the home court to their advantage, only getting to the free throw line seven times, as compared to 14 attempts for the visitors.
"This is a very physical league, and we have got to learn to be strong with the basketball," said Dozier.
Buffalo was led by three players in double figures, including McMeeken-Ruscoe with a team-high 21, and Kim Kilpela and Jessica Kochendorfer, both chipping in with 13 points.
The Bulls held NIU's leading scorer, Jennifer Youngblood, to no points, but the Huskies' Joi Scott (14 points), Kristan Knake (15 points), and Stephanie Smith (13 points) pitched in to help Northern Illinois secure the victory.
UB's next action is Wednesday at home against Bowling Green at 7 p.m.