BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team grinded out a 59-54 win over Northern Illinois at Alumni Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Bulls had three players score in double-figures, led by 16 from Javon McCrea.
Tony Watson scored 14 points and continued to shoot it well from long range as the senior guard nailed three three-pointers. Auraum Nuiriankh notched his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
A three-pointer by Jarryn Skeete broke a 12-all tie with 12:41 left in the first half to give the Bulls the lead for good. However, a gutty performance by the Huskies prevented UB from pulling away.
Watson hit an acrobatic layup while being fouled with just one second remaining in the half. His free throw gave the Bulls a 31-27 lead at the break. The Bulls held a halftime advantage despite Northern Illinois shooting 61 percent from the field in the first half.
It was a steady dose of McCrea to start the second half as the UB big man scored the first six points to extend the Bulls' lead to 37-27. The UB lead would hover around eight for much of the second half before the Huskies made a run.
With UB leading, 52-41, with 4:27 left, Northern Illinois went on a 7-0 scoring run to cut the Buffalo advantage to 52-48 with 1:59 on the clock. A pair of Nuiriankh free throws and a Will Regan layup extended the UB lead to 56-48 with 49 seconds left.
However, the Bulls converted just one of their next six free throws and suddenly the Huskies trailed just 57-54 with 22 seconds left. But Abdel Nader's three-point attempt to tie the game with nine seconds left was off the mark and Nuiriankh skied for the rebound to seal the win for the Bulls.
"We knew Northern Illinois was a gritty, grind-it-out team and they were that way today," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "They were going to force us to have to grind with them and it's good to be on the winning side. We have a lot of things to work on, but it's good to be on the winning side of it."
Buffalo (9-15, 4-6 MAC) shot just 38 percent from the field, but did pull down 12 offensive rebounds and outscored the Huskies, 13-2, in second chance points.
Regan had nine points, Skeete had six and Cameron Downing finished with four points to round out UB's scoring.
The Bulls will remain at home and host Toledo on Wednesday night at 7 pm at Alumni Arena.