In its first game as a Top 25 team, No. 25 Buffalo showed that it intends to stay in the rankings for a while.
Using balanced scoring and tough defense, the Bulls took the lead for good late in the first half Monday night and steadily pulled away in the second half to subdue Southern Illinois 62-53 at Carbondale, Ill.
Montell McRae and Jeremy Harris paced Buffalo (3-0) with 11 points each, McRae making all four of his field-goal attempts. Seven other players scored for the Bulls, with five of them chipping in 5 to 9 points each. Buffalo won despite making just 35.5 percent of its field-goal attempts and 8 of 28 3-point shots.
Center Kavion Pippen, the nephew of former NBA great Scottie Pippen, scored a game-high 18 points for the Salukis (0-2). Aaron Cook added 11, and Sean Lloyd Jr. kicked in 10 points. But SIU shot poorly, hitting only 40.4 percent from the floor and 3-of-13 on 3-point attempts, and also committed 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.
Playing their first nonconference home game against a ranked team since February of 2007, the Salukis got off to a fast start. When Lloyd stroked a 3-pointer off a Marcus Bartley pass, SIU owned a 16-8 advantage less than six minutes into the action.
However, the Bulls predictably pieced together a run. After Cook’s jumper made it 27-20 Salukis with 4:50 remaining before intermission, Buffalo scored the last 11 points of the half. Jeenathan Williams’ free throws with 1:29 left put the Bulls ahead for good, and Harris’ 3-pointer with four seconds remaining gave them a 31-27 halftime edge.
The Bulls put it out of reach with a 15-3 spurt in the second half. Davonta Jordan canned a 3-pointer at the 3:47 mark for their biggest lead at 60-43, and the game’s remainder was a race to the final horn.
SIU played without its leading returning scorer from last year, Armon Fletcher, who injured his knee in the second half of a 71-59 loss Friday night at Kentucky.
—Field Level Media