BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo women's basketball team opened up Mid-American Conference play with a big victory over Northern Illinois on Thursday night, 60-53, at Alumni Arena. The Bulls played solid defense and hit free throws down the stretch to pick up the win.
The Huskies took an early lead in the contest, jumping out to a 10-7 advantage just four and a half minutes in. However, the Bulls responded by going on a 12-0 run, that included five points from redshirt sophomore Kristen Sharkey. The run allowed Buffalo to lead for the remainder of the opening half, taking a 24-18 lead into the break. The 18 points allowed by Buffalo in the opening half were its fewest since allowing just 15 at Ball State on February 4, 2012.
Northern Illinois opened up the second half on an 8-2 run to tie the game up with 15:01 left and trailed just 37-35 with 9:28 remaining when Buffalo went on a game-changing 14-2 run, which was capped off on a pair of free throws from redshirt junior Cherridy Thornton, giving the Bulls a 51-37 lead with 2:26 left. The Bulls extended their lead to 15 with 1:07 left, but NIU had one last run in it scoring 10 straight points in just 30 seconds to pull within 56-51, but the Bulls hit four straight free throws late to seal the victory.
"I am pleased with the way this team continues to fight and this is just one step on our journey together," said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. "I thought this was a total team victory and definitely something that we can continue to build on."
Freshman Mackenzie Loesing finished with her second career 20-point game, scoring 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting and a 6-for-7 performance from the free throw line. Loesing, who was held scoreless in UB's last game, added four rebounds and three steals. Sharkey finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, an assist, a blocked shot and a steal. Thronton struggled from the floor, but was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line, finishing with nine points.
Junior Margeaux Gupilan also struggled from the floor, but finished with four points and a game-high four steals on the defensive end. When Gupilan was on the bench, senior Nicki Hopkins ran the point and dished out three assists in 14 minutes of action. Sophomore Christa Baccas had four points, seven rebounds, three assists and four blocks off the bench. Coming off the bench for the first time this season, freshman Rachael Gregory added six points, all at the free throw line. As a team, UB converted on nine of its final 10 free throws.
Northern Illinois was led by 18 points and seven rebounds from Amanda Corral and nine points and five rebounds from Satavia Taylor. The Bulls forced NIU into 20 turnovers on the night.
The Bulls remain home on Sunday afternoon and look to go 2-0 in conference when they host the Ohio Bobcats at 2:00 pm.