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Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball Game Preview: Northern Illinois Huskies

The Bulls return back to Alumni Arena to take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois. Buffalo is coming off a 96-69 victory against Ball State last Friday. A dominating victory against the first place team in the MAC West has this fan based recharged and excited again, as the Bulls continue their tough journey to try and be the first ever team to three peat as MAC champions.

Led by senior Blake Hamilton, Buffalo has looked like a brand new team the past three games. Ever since a tough loss to Miami(OH), Buffalo has come in to focus. The players are no longer trying to do too much but instead have bought in to the team aspect. The extra pass is being made more often and every single player is contributing for the better. If the Bulls continue to play this way, there isn’t a team that can beat them in the MAC.

That all being said, it’s time for the attention to be focused on NIU. The Huskies are a game ahead of the Bulls in the standings, meaning a UB win will move them in to the top 4. So far this season the Huskies have had their struggles on offense, but have rode strong defense to wins. They’re coming off an 81-69 win against EMU, a hit or miss team from the West. This will be a good test to see if Buffalo keeps up their hot offense or if they can be bested by a better defense. Let’s take a look at what to watch for in this match up.

What to Watch For

Can Blake Hamilton keep it rolling?

Ever since the Miami(OH) loss, Hamilton has been the player we all expected. He was just named the MAC East Player of the Week, and rightfully so. These past three games have been such a treat to watch him just dominate the game. Every shot he takes, I now expect it to go in. He’s playing at the highest level of his short UB career and I can only hope that it doesn’t stop. I hope this is a trend, and not a fluke.

How does the team come out after such a dominating win?

The Bulls put on a show on national TV. Any random viewer that turned it on should be impressed. Now how does UB respond to the next game. They don’t have national TV to hype them up, but they shouldn’t have to. I would love to see the team focused and dominate from the start. They’ll have the backing of the home crowd who is ready to see this team take off. A complete game will give the Bulls their first 3 game winning streak and a feeling that this team is getting in to “Cleveland mode.” The biggest factor is the start for me. NIU has a very weak offense, and putting them down early could help create an insurmountable lead.

Does the big four keep it rolling?

If you don’t know by now, the big four is, Blake Hamilton, CJ Massinburg, Willie Conner, and Nick Perkins. These four seem to be the catalyst of success. When they all play well, the Bulls are great. Normally, their fifth member is Quate McKinzie, but during his absence, Dontay Caruthers has stepped up. This line up has had great success in the past three games. Can they keep it going? At this point I’d say yes, but only time will tell.

That being said, don’t take for granted the contributions from David Kadiri, Ikenna Smart, and even Nikola Rakicevic. These three have provided wonderfully from their respective roles. All three have helped the Bulls defensively and with an offensive spark when you feel like they need it the most.

My personal thoughts on tomorrow are simple. A win and the Bulls should take off in a nice late season run. They have one of the easier MAC schedules finishing, but should not take anyone for granted. If they lose tomorrow, we will be left questioning the consistency of this team again. Personally, I feel with the students back, the team playing well, and a weak offensive team coming to town, the Bulls should be able to get the job done. And that should be exciting for all Bulls fans. Never give up on this team, and get ready for a wild finish to the season.