The women's basketball team came within six seconds of its longest win streak in almost nine years on Saturday afternoon. But the referees blew their whistles and, arguably, the game.
Northern Illinois (10-14, 4-7 Mid-American Conference) converted three consecutive free throws after a questionable foul was called on senior guard Ashley Zuber to send the game into overtime. The Huskies buried eight straight free throws in the extra session to put the Bulls (13-11, 6-5 MAC) away, 61-53.
The game seesawed from the opening tip, as there were five ties and 13 lead changes.
On a day that Buffalo celebrated its annual Pink Zone and National Girls and Women In Sports Day, fans left with a bad taste in their mouths. The 601 people in attendance did not hesitate to let the referees know how they felt about the call, but head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald didn't have anything to say about the call after the game.
"The ref's job is to make the calls," Hill-MacDonald said. "My job is to coach, so I have no comment at all [about that call]."
The last time the two teams played, Huskies guard Marke Freeman scored a career-high 36 points. On Saturday, she tallied a game-high 18 points and grabbed an impressive nine rebounds from her guard position.
Senior forward Kourtney Brown finished the game with her usual team-high in points and rebounds, with 17 and 13, respectively. Brown also swatted six shots in the game, and led Buffalo with four assists.
Brown acknowledged the Huskies' defensive pressure as a contributing factor to her assist total.
"It was easier for me to pass out when I had two or three people on me, and we could get an open shot," Brown said.
Brown, who usually dominates around the basket, was forced into taking some jump shots and went 8-for-17 from the field.
Following, Hill-MacDonald credited the Huskies' defense as well.
"They were jamming [Kourtney]," Hill-MacDonald said. "You can't force it inside, and they were very physical and made it difficult to get entry passes. I told her to take the jump shots, because that is what they were giving her. [NIU] was just daring her to step away from the basket and take shots."
Senior forward Jessica Fortman came into the game averaging 12 points and eight rebounds in MAC play. She was held to five points and three rebounds in the loss' and the Bulls really missed her production.
A last-second attempt from Fortman in regulation ricocheted off the back of the rim, sending the game into overtime tied at 49.
Junior guard Brittany Hedderson contributed 15 points in the loss, while senior forward Bridgette Kendricks and junior forward Beth Christensen combined for 10 rebounds.
The Bulls look to redeem themselves in the last of a three-game homestretch when they host Akron (11-12, 4-7 MAC) on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.