Brown Delivers Overtime Win Against Niagara, 87-79
NIAGARA FALLS, NY – The University at Buffalo women's basketball team got a career-defining performance by junior forward Kourtney Brown, and plenty of help from her freshman teammates, as the Bulls opened the season with a classic Big 4 overtime thriller, defeating host Niagara, 87-79, before 548 entertained fans.
Brown set a new career high with 33 points, pulled in a school-record 22 rebounds and added a career-high six steals, as the Bulls overcame a nine-point second-half deficit and won a season opener on the road for the first time since the 2002-03 season. Brown's 33 points tie her for fifth-most in a game in school history with Tiffany Bell and Kim Kilpela, both set in 2000 and her 22 rebounds tie her for sixth most by a Mid-American Conference player all-time.
Brown got a huge boost from freshman guard Nicki Hopkins, who scored 14 points and added three assists in her first career game. She hit four-of-seven trifectas, but none was bigger than the three she hit from the left corner to give the Bulls a 79-74 lead in overtime with 2:51 remaining. The Bulls never trailed in the overtime. Sophomore Brittany Heddersonscored eight of her 19 points in the overtime session, including a trifecta to open the overtime to give UB a lead they would never lose in OT.
"I think Niagara gave us everything we could handle tonight," said head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. "They had an exceptionally fine defensive game and really took advantage of some of our weaknesses. I'm pleased that we were able to find a way to win because they did not make it easy.
"We've got some good perimeter shooters and teams won't be able to sag off the wings as much as they did last year and jam up Kourtney," said Hill-MacDonald. "It was physical inside but Kourtney did a great job of not getting frustrated and she continued to work hard. I would imagine that many of her 33 points came off of her 11 offensive rebounds. She amazes me every day. "
That's when Brown, a pre-season MAC Player of the Year candidate, took over. Buffalo went on a 12-1 run to take a 58-56 lead – their first of the second half – as Brown scored 11 of the 12 points.
After Niagara scored to tie the game at 58-58, the Bulls retook the lead on three straight free throws by junior Jessica Fortman, and continued to lead into the games final four minutes, including by as much as five, 67-62, on a jumper by Dowd.
However, Niagara wouldn't go away and pulled ahead 68-67 on a three-pointer by Ali Morris with 1:58 remaining. Hopkins, however, proved herself clutch in her first collegiate game, drilling a three-pointer with 1:36 left to retake the lead 70-68 for UB. Niagara's Jennifer McNamee (22 points), however hit a deep three, to put the Purple Eagles back on top 71-70 with 1:16 remaining.
The Bulls forged a tie to send the game to overtime when Dowd hit one-of-two free throws with :50 left and the Purple Eagles missed a three in the final five seconds.
In the first half, Hedderson got the Bulls off to a fast start to the season, draining a pair of three-point field goals in the first 1:30 of the game to give the Bulls an early 6-2 advantage.
The Purple Eagles responded, however, with a 6-0 run to grab an 8-6 lead and the lead see-sawed back and forth for most of the first ten minutes. The Bulls pulled ahead 15-13 on a pair of buckets by junior forward Brown, but the Purple Eagles responded with a bucket and a the second three-point field goal of the first half by Jennifer McNamee.
Niagara opened its biggest lead at 25-20 on a three-pointer by Liz Flooks, but UB had an answer when freshman Hopkins hit the first trifecta of her career to cut the lead to 25-23. Buffalo would embark on a 9-0 run to take a 29-25 lead. Hopkins would score five points, while freshman Nytor Longar would score the first two points of her career on a put back bucket. Buffalo got strong contributions in the first half from first-year players, as at one point in the first half, Buffalo had four freshmen on the floor.
Niagara then went on a run of its own, retaking the lead on an 11-0 run to go ahead 36-29, the biggest lead by either team. Hopkins, however, silenced the home crowd with a three to stop the run and Brown added a layup to cut the lead to 36-34.
Niagara would extend the lead to 40-34 on a pair of buckets by Kayla Stroman, before Brown would singlehandedly cut the Niagara deficit to a pair at halftime with a put back and a steal and layup with :03 left to make the halftime score 40-38 in favor of the host Purple Eagles.
The Bulls were plagued by turnovers in the first half, committing 16 of them, which offset a strong 52% (13-of-25) shooting performance. For the game, Buffalo committed 28 turnovers, which helped offset a 50-46 rebounding advantage and a solid shooting night (26-of-56, 46%).
The Bulls will be back in action on Monday when they travel to Long Island to face Hofstra at 7 pm.