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UB women hope defense will serve them

CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo women’s basketball team hopes to keep its momentum going Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

The Bulls have won eight of their last 11 games and ratcheted up their defense down the stretch.

Fourth-seeded UB meets fifth-seeded Western Michigan at noon at Quicken Loans Arena.

“The offense comes and goes on every team, and it certainly comes and goes on us,” said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “We go 57 percent one game and 40 percent the other. What we’re really depending on is will we take a possession off defensively? If the answer is no, we’ve got a shot. I think we’re getting better.”

UB ranks fifth in the 12-team MAC in scoring defense, holding foes to 60.2 points a game. UB is fourth in field-goal percentage defense, allowing 37.4 percent shooting.

The Bulls probably will need one of their better games to beat Western Michigan. The two teams are evenly matched. Both are strong in the front court, and they split their season series. UB lost at home in January, 62-53, then won on the road in February, 54-44.

UB is 18-11 and went 11-7 in the MAC. Western Michigan is 20-11 and went 11-7. UB ranked seventh in scoring, Western ranked eighth. Western was fourth in points allowed.

“Finishing 7-3 the last 10 games was critical,” Legette-Jack said. “We played some tough teams. I like the way our kids are winning in the locker room. I go in the locker room ready to get mad at them and tell them things we need to do, and they’ve already got it on the board. We need to box out. Energy wasn’t where it needs to be. If you’re winning in the locker room, outside of the locker room gets a little better.”

UB has shown the ability to play at a high level, beating No. 2 seed Ball State and playing top-seeded Ohio reasonably tough in two meetings (both Ohio wins). But UB’s three losses in the final month featured some cold shooting nights.

Legette-Jack is counting on her big lineup to do well on the boards.

“As of late, we’re where we need to be,” she said. “We had 47 rebounds against Kent State. If we can average about 42 rebounds these next three games, we can be cutting a net down.”

The winner Thursday meets Ohio in the semifinals at noon Friday. Ohio is 25-4 and 16-2.