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Dean of MAC coaches says this is UB's best team

Steve Hawkins is in his 15th season as head coach at Western Michigan and is the dean of basketball coaches in the Mid-American Conference.

He has seen a lot of good MAC teams. Hawkins is mighty impressed with the University at Buffalo after losing to the Bulls for a second time this year.

"This is the best Buffalo team that I've seen," said Hawkins after his team's 92-86 loss to the Bulls Friday night.

Hawkins ranks this year's Bulls ahead of the UB's NCAA Tournament teams of 2015 and 2016.

"The thing that I love about them on film is their chemistry jumps off the film," Hawkins said. "You can tell these guys like to play with each other. They share the ball. They don't seem to care who takes the shot. If a bad shot is taken by one of them, the other guys don't seem to mind."

Hawkins lamented some of his team's bad shots in the first half. They allowed UB to go on a 12-0 run and take a 19-9 lead. The lead stayed around 10 points the entire game.

"They're one of the best teams I've seen to turn turnovers into points," Hawkins said. "When you play them, you have to play almost a perfectly disciplined game. A bad shot against them is an outlet pass. You might as well be throwing them the outlet pass. We had that early and they took advantage of it."

Big scorer: Western Michigan got 34 points from senior guard Thomas Wilder, who entered the game averaging 18.9 ppg, third best in the MAC. Wilder is returning first-team All-MAC player.

"They're a good team, and that's a good win for us," said UB coach Nate Oats. "That's not what we're used to giving up. But Wilder's good, and that's a well-coached team."

MAC Poll: Western Michigan was the preseason pick to win the MAC. The Broncos are 13-10 and 5-5. They are in logjam of teams battling for the fourth-best record in the conference.

West streak: UB's win was its 11th straight against MAC West teams, the longest streak for the Bulls since joining the MAC in 1998.

1,000-point club: Nick Perkins was honored before tipoff for scoring his 1,000th career point last week at Ohio. Perkins moved into 18th place on UB's all-time scoring list. CJ Massinburg stands 15th on the career list.

First meeting: UB scored an 84-74 win over the Broncos on the road on Jan. 19. Buffalo shot 47 percent from the field in the game and won the rebounding battle, 43-35.

Up next: UB visits Central Michigan on Tuesday, then plays at Northern Illinois next Saturday. The Bulls' next home game is Feb. 13 vs. Kent State.



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