The game was more nerve-wracking than the final score indicates, but the University at Buffalo men's basketball team is still undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. UB used a dominant 59-point second half to down Northern Illinois, 95-67, and earn a fifth straight conference win.
Nick Perkins led the team with 26 points, tying a career high.
Program best: This is the first time UB has ever started MAC play 5-0. The last time the program won its first five games of conference play was in 1997-98, the Bulls' final year in the Mid-Continent Conference. Overall, the Bulls have won six straight dating back to a Dec. 28 victory against NJIT.
A tale of two halves: UB was ice cold from 3-point range in the first half, shooting 3 for 18 from long range. Despite the lack of success, the Bulls kept going back to the well. The 3-point attempts made up for 56 percent of their field goals in the first frame. The shot selection wasn't horrible, but none of the looks were going down for any of coach Nate Oats' players. No Bull shot better than 33 percent from deep before the break.
UB shot much better in the second half, 8 for 13. It was a driving force in the team pulling away.
Defense wins championships: The Bulls didn't let the poor offensive showing affect their effort on the defensive side of the floor, a big reason UB went into halftime with a 36-33 lead. Northern Illinois' shooting wasn't much better than the Bulls in the first -- 48 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. The Bulls grabbed 13 defensive boards in the first half and allowed only two offensive boards to the Huskies.
Clash of the Titans: Alumni Arena hosted the two top scorers in the MAC in Northern Illinois' Eugene German and UB's CJ Massinburg. German entered the game leading the conference with 19.9 points per game, scoring 19 or more in four of the Huskies' last five games. Davonta Jordan, one of the Bulls' best defensive players, did a good job limiting his impact. German had only two points in the first and 17 points in the game.
Massinburg, who entered averaging 18.7 points, scored 16.
Injury update: UB's Dontay Caruthers, the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, did not make his expected return to the lineup Tuesday. He's missed 11 straight games with a stress reaction in his lower leg.
Guard Wes Clark left the bench in the first half, returning courtside before the break with ice on his non-shooting shoulder. He sat out the rest of the half but returned with the starting unit at the beginning of the second.
Moving up the charts: UB coach Nate Oats reached 50 career wins, the fourth fastest Bulls coach to do so and the fastest in the modern era. He passed V. William Hughes, who coached UB from 1979-82, for seventh in all-time wins at the school.
Up Next: The Bulls face arguably their biggest test of the conference slate so far Friday when they play at Western Michigan. It's a battle of division favorites, as the Broncos were ranked first in the MAC West in the conference's preseason poll. The game will be aired on ESPNU.