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NIU can't overcome rough play in home loss to Buffalo

DeKALB – Things got chippy and testy between Northern Illinois and Buffalo Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Forty seven fouls were called, including five technicals.

Despite losing one of their top scorers, guard Joshua Freelove, to an ejection early in the second half, the Bulls held off the Huskies for a 75-67 win.

Buffalo improves to 10-6 and 4-2 in MAC play while NIU falls to 7-11 and 1-5.

"I told our guys, just keep competing and play basketball. All the pushing, trash-talking, walking up on guys, we don't need that," NIU head coach Mark Montgomery said. "Hopefully Buffalo, they don't want that either. But when you get five guys out there competing to get the W, and you're playing for the second time, sometimes those things have a tendency to happen."

Less than two minutes into the second half, NIU guard Travon Baker and Buffalo's Javon McCrea picked up dueling technical fouls – McCrea for slapping the basketball out of Baker's hands when play was stopped. Freelove picked up his first technical as well.

With around 15 minutes left in the game, Freelove was assessed his second technical after making a layup which put the Bulls up 43-37. Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley – the former Duke All-American point guard, who was visibly upset with the officials most of the game – was assessed a technical for arguing.

"The explanation was that [Freelove] said something to the other player," Hurley said. "I think in basketball, you make a really good play, and it's a natural instinct to get excited about what you just did, and that was my take on it."

NIU would make a run following the Buffalo technicals, getting to within one point of the Bulls with 11:58 left, but the Huskies couldn't put together another consistent scoring advantage.

"I felt we got some momentum because Freelove, he comes in aggressive and he's another scoring threat," NIU sophomore wing Darrell Bowie said. "So with him gone I felt like it was time for us to make a run and get over the hump and we don't have to worry about another double-digit scorer. They've got some guards that came off the bench and stepped up."

Bowie finished with 14 points for NIU. Bolin led the Huskies with 17, while Baker had 12 and Jordan Threloff added eight.

Buffalo's Javon McCrea showed why he's one of the top candidates for MAC Player of the Year, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds.

"He's adding a perimeter jump shot to his arsenal, which is something that I'm just seeing," Hurley said. "He's getting more and more comfortable shooting that 15 to 17-foot jump shot, and he's really tough to guard. He's got all that going for him."

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