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MAC scoring leader to challenge UB

Looks like Xavier Ford drew the short straw.

Ford, the University at Buffalo’s svelte forward, has the chore tonight of covering Western Michigan’s David Brown, the Mid-American Conference’s leading scorer, and it won’t be an easy assignment. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Brown, who is averaging 18.7 points, is a versatile scorer.

The Bulls (10-6, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) host Western Michigan (11-7, 4-2) at 7 p.m. at Alumni Arena.

Also tonight St. Bonaventure (12-8, 2-4 Atlantic 10), which has dropped four of five, hosts No. 21 ranked Massachusetts (17-2, 4-1) at 7 at the Reilly Center, and in Big 4 women’s basketball rivals Canisius (8-12, 4-7) and Niagara (6-13, 4-6) meet at 7 p.m. at the Gallagher Center.

Western Michigan’s Brown is averaging 19.6 points over the last five games, which include victories over Kent State and Ball State. It will be up to the 6-7 Ford and 6-3 senior guard Jarod Oldham in certain stretches of the game, to contain him.

“He does a great job at getting to the free-throw line,” UB coach Bobby Hurley said. “He’s got a strong body and really gets contact. They move him around a lot. He’s able to drive it, he can shoot the three, he can post up a little bit with a smaller guard. He’s definitely a tough guard.”

“Just with his size and his length and maybe avoid being posted up too with some smaller guards,” Hurley said.

And Brown isn’t Western’s lone threat. They have skilled players who perform well in coach Steve Hawkins system. Inside there’s center Shayne Whittington (14.8 ppg.) and forward Connar Tava (12.1 ppg.). Whittington is coming off of a 21-point, 15-rebound performance against Ball State

“It’s hard to really help off any guys in particular because they have guys who can hurt you,” Hurley said. “We need to have ball pressure because they are good passers, and they can shoot. We can’t allow them to see things clearly out there because they’ll pick you apart. That’s going to be a point of emphasis for our defense.”

The Bulls are in a three-way tie for second place with Ohio and surprising Miami (Ohio) behind first-place Akron (5-1) in the MAC East Division standings. The Broncos are in sole possession of second place behind Toledo (5-1) in the West.

St. Bonaventure’s game against UMass is a rematch. The Bonnies lost the first meeting, 73-68, on Jan. 11 in Amherst, Mass. The Minutemen are tied for second place with George Washington, VCU and Richmond behind Saint Louis.

The Canisius and Niagara men’s team will be on the road on Thursday. Canisius (14-7, 8-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), tied for first place in the MAAC with Iona, will play at league newcomer Quinnipiac (12-7, 7-3) at 7:30 p.m. in Hamden, Conn., while Niagara (6-15, 3-7) plays at Marist (6-14, 3-7) at 8:30 p.m.

The UB women (11-7, 4-3) host Miami, Ohio (6-12, 2-5) at 7 p.m., on Thursday. The St. Bonaventure women (16-6, 5-2 Atlantic 10) are locked in a four-way tie for third place in the A-10 with Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Fordham (16-4, 5-2), which comes to the Reilly Center at 1 p.m., on Saturday.