Created:Wednesday, January 8, 2014 5:30 a.m.CDT

NIU men's basketball travels to Buffalo to open up conference season

Northern Illinois’ Darrell Bowie attempts a shot in the first half Friday against Bethune-Cookman at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. The Huskies won, 65-51. (Monica Maschak –

Northern Illinois (6-6, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) at Buffalo (6-4, 0-0 MAC)

WHEN: 6 p.m., Alumni Arena, Buffalo, N.Y.

RADIO: AM-1360 WLBK, FM 98.9

LAST MEETING: Buffalo defeated NIU, 59-54, on Feb. 9, 2013

SCOUTING THE BULLS: Buffalo sits two games above .500 under first-year coach Bobby Hurley, the former Duke star and the NCAA’s all-time assists leader. The Bulls are led by one of the best players in the MAC, senior forward Javon McCrea, who is second in the conference in scoring at 17.7 points per game. He’s also second in the MAC in rebounds, averaging 9.6 a contest. Buffalo is 5-1 at Alumni Arena.

OUTLOOK: Things are looking up for NIU, which enters MAC play with a .500 mark. For the first time since 2005-06, each MAC program will play 18 conference games. The Huskies will play every team in the MAC West twice, and will go up against East opponents Buffalo and Kent State two times as well.

However, NIU will have to deal with the loss of its leading scorer, freshman guard Dontel Highsmith, who tore an ACL. In last week’s win over Bethune-Cookman, freshman Aaric Armstead took Highsmith’s place in the starting lineup and scored a career-high 11 points.

Steve Nitz,

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