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UB offense faces test against Bowling Green

The University at Buffalo hopes its offensive strength can overcome Bowling Green’s defensive prowess Saturday in a key Mid-American Conference game in Ohio.

UB ranks second in the MAC in offensive efficiency and has scored at least 70 points in 12 of 13 conference games. Bowling Green ranks first in defensive efficiency and has held 11 of 13 league opponents to fewer than 70 points.

Bowling Green is tied for the MAC’s East Division lead with Kent State at 9-4. UB (7-6) is fourth, but the Bulls’ hopes of catching Bowling Green got a boost Wednesday when the Falcons were upset by Miami. The Bulls will need to beat Bowling Green on Saturday (2 p.m., Radio 1520 AM, ESPN3) and in the regular-season finale March 6.

What makes Bowling Green’s defense so good?

“They don’t take a lot of chances on defense,” UB coach Bobby Hurley said. “They’re very sensitive to taking away driving lanes. They’re very compact. They force you to make contested shots.”

Bowling Green’s 6-foot-8 center, Richaun Holmes, leads the team with 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and a MAC-best 2.8 blocks a game.

“If they do have breakdowns, Holmes in the paint is great at altering shots,” Hurley said. “He’s probably the best shot-blocker in the conference. They don’t give up a lot of points in transition. They do a good job of not turning it over. They run a good disciplined style.”

Bowling Green is holding MAC opponents to 61.2 points and 40.5 percent field-goal shooting. UB is averaging a MAC-best 76.2 points a game in conference.

UB plays at the fastest tempo in the MAC. Bowling Green plays the second slowest tempo.

“I don’t know how much we can affect them with pressure,” Hurley said. “But I do think if we’re on offense more often than they are, that’s going to help our chances. I think we’ve proven we’re a pretty good offensive team.”

Here’s a roundup of the rest of Saturday’s Big 4 basketball games:

• Canisius men: The Griffs visit Quinnipiac (1 p.m., Radio 1230 AM) in Hamden, Conn. Canisius can clinch fifth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and a first-round tournament bye with a win. Canisius (9-8) beat Quinnipiac (8-9) in the first meeting. Even if the Griffs lose, they still control their chances for an automatic spot in the MAAC quarterfinals, because they almost surely will hold the tiebreaker edge on Quinnipiac. Canisius ranks No. 1 in the MAAC in scoring defense, holding league foes to 61.9 ppg. Quinnipiac is the worst shooting team in the MAAC, hitting 39 percent of its field goals.

• St. Bonaventure men: The Bonnies visit Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m., SportsNet New York, 95.7 FM) in Philadelphia. Bona is 6-7, St. Joe’s 5-8 in the Atlantic 10. Bona won the first meeting. Bona is just 3-23 all time at Hawk Hill. St. Joe’s DeAndre Bembry leads the A10 in scoring at 18 ppg.

• Niagara men: The Purple Eagles (4-13) are big underdogs at Rider (2 p.m., Radio 550 AM) in Lawrenceville, N.J. Rider (13-4) has won five straight and 17 of its last 21. The Broncs beat Niagara by nine last week. They are holding foes to a MAAC-low 39.8 percent shooting.

• UB women: The Bulls play host to Miami (2 p.m., Radio 1520 AM, ESPN3) at Alumni Arena. It’s the annual “Play 4 Kay” game in support of breast cancer. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the game, and cancer survivors will be honored at halftime. “Play 4 Kay” is a national campaign in honor of late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow. UB is 8-5 in the MAC and 15-9 overall. The Bulls have won six of the last seven and still are in the hunt for a top-four league finish. Miami is 1-12 and 4-20.

• St. Bona women: The Bonnies host Davidson at 1 p.m. at the Reilly Center. The Bonnies are tied for 11th in the 14-team A10 at 4-9. If Bona can win two of its last three, it still has a chance to finish 10th and avoid a bottom-four play-in game in the conference tournament. Davidson is in last place at 1-12. Davidson is last in the conference in scoring at 51.4 ppg.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com