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Three home games highlight Big 4 Saturday hoops schedule

It’s iron-out-the-wrinkles time in the college basketball season.

There are two weeks to go before conference play begins in earnest, which means two or three more games for most teams to shore up some chinks in their game.

That means tighten up the defense for the Canisius Golden Griffins.

Canisius has shown encouraging signs despite starting 3-6. The Griffs’ offense has smoothly incorporated new players, and the team already has an upset win over Monmouth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

However, the Griffs’ defense leaks. Canisius is allowing 83.4 points per game and 47.5 percent field-goal shooting.

The Griffs aim to improve those numbers Saturday when they play host to Boston University in a non-conference game at 2 p.m. at the Koessler Athletic Center. The University at Buffalo and St. Bonaventure also play 2 p.m. home games Saturday.

“There’s no question we can score points,” said Canisius coach Jim Baron. “But we definitely have to defend. We definitely have to rebound. When you have seven newcomers, it takes some time to implement them into your system and build continuity. It’s a process.”

Canisius has played a tough schedule. Its six defeats are to opponents with a combined record of 35-20. The Griffs hope these early tests make them tougher down the stretch of the MAAC season.

“I thought it would be good to face this kind of challenge early to give us experience as we get ready for league play,” Baron said.

Canisius faces the toughest opponent of the day in Big 4 play. Boston (5-5) was picked to finish third in the Patriot League, behind Lehigh and Bucknell. The Terriers beat Quinnipiac, 64-57. Quinnipiac edged Canisius, 78-76, two weeks ago.

Boston has all five starters back from last year. The Terriers are shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three-point range, both in the top three of its league.

Boston is led in scoring by 6-3 sophomore Cheddi Mosley (13.8) and 6-3 senior John Papale (13.5), both three-point threats. Cedric Hankerson, a 6-5 junior who made all-Patriot League last season, is coming back from knee surgery but scored 23 on Quinnipiac.

The other Big 4 games:

• The Bonnies (6-2) aim for their fourth straight win when they play host to South Carolina State at the Reilly Center. Bona is expected to get 6-10 red-shirt freshman center Jordan Tyson back in uniform for the game. Tyson suffered a torn tendon in his wrist in August. His return would give Bona some much-needed front-court depth. Bona has been using a seven-man rotation, with 6-8 freshman Derrick Woods seeing 17 minutes a game in the low post.

South Carolina State (5-6) lost at A10 member Duquesne on Wednesday, 83-68. The Bulldogs were 11-22 last year and were picked for eighth out of 13 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. They have two wins over non-Division I foes. The Bulldogs’ top three players are 6-3 junior college transfer Eric Eaves (15.3 ppg), 6-2 sophomore Ed Stephens (14.2 ppg), and 6-7 senior Gabriel McCray (11.0 ppg).

• The University at Buffalo plays host to Montana State at 2 p.m. at Alumni Arena. Montana State was supposed to visit UB last year but cancelled the trip due to the “Snowvember” blizzard. The Bobcats finished 7-23 last year and were picked to finish 11th out of 12 this year in the Big Sky Conference.

However, Montana State (5-5) is playing better on offense than last year. The Bobcats are averaging 78.8 ppg and shooting 45.8 percent from the field. They are allowing 81.6 ppg. They’re led by 5-11 senior guard Marcus Colbert (17.8 ppg) and 6-3 freshman guard Tyler Hall (16.6).

• The Bona women (8-2) seek an eighth straight win at 4 p.m. at Colgate. Colgate (1-7) has lost three straight and was picked for seventh in the 10-team Patriot League.