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UB women topple Niagara

When they're focused, collectively, they can be dangerous and entertaining.

With a dominating performance in the second half, the University at Buffalo earned a 58-42 win over Niagara in front of 330 at Alumni Arena on Tuesday night.

The focus, as always, started from center Kourtney Brown. But her teammates picked up on the energy, playing aggressive defense and opening up the offense.

The Bulls had a slim 29-26 halftime lead but a 12-0 run to start the second effectively put the game away. Buffalo gained confidence and Niagara struggled. In fact, the Purple Eagles made just three field goals in the second half, going 3 for 23 from the field (13 percent), 1 for 5 from three-point range and hitting 9 of their 15 free-throw attempts.

"We came into the locker room at halftime and talked about defense the whole time," Brown said. "We knew we needed to be better as a defensive unit and we took that to heart out there. We knew we had each other's back. If someone would drive, help side would be there. We were able to pressure more and get more turnovers and the defensive stops created a lot of our offense today."

Brown led an improved charge in the low post for the Bulls (5-5) in the second half as the team found ways to score in the paint and cash in on second chance opportunities. The fifth-year senior posted her 35th career double-double with 15 points and 18 rebounds, with four blocks for good measure.

Those numbers aren't anything new for Brown. But what helped the Bulls' cause was that she didn't do it alone. Fellow senior forward Jessica Fortman had 11 points and nicely set up Brown on several buckets. Brittany Hedderson added eight points and Teresa Semalulu had seven as the guards became an effective part of the Buffalo offense.

"They were packing in a zone and taking away passing lanes into Kourtney and other players had the opportunity to take wide open looks at the basket," Buffalo coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said. "When that occurs they need to knock those down. When that happens, it loosens things up for Kourtney and our perimeter players did a good job in the second half."

The Bulls led by as many as eight in the first half before a 6-0 run by Niagara pulled the Purple Eagles within one, 22-21. The Purple Eagles were poised to take a lead when Chanel Johnson was called for an intentional offensive foul as her elbow hit Hedderson and bloodied Hedderson's nose -- for the second time of the half. Hedderson went to the bench for medical attention and Fortman hit both free throws for a 24-21 Buffalo lead.

"I think Buffalo turned up the defense pressure in the second half and really started getting into passing lanes," Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said.

Shy Britton led Niagara (1-9) with 10 points.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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