CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo will try to rely on its defense and depth Friday in a Mid-American Conference semifinal meeting with Western Michigan.
Second-seeded UB was a better defensive team this season than sixth-seeded Western Michigan. The Bulls are No. 1 in the MAC and No. 30 in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, holding foes to 36 percent shooting. Western Michigan ranked No. 10 in the MAC and No. 215 in the nation at 43 percent.
However, UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack said Western Michigan has the athleticism to run up and down the court with the Bulls.
"They're so athletic, and their guards are good," Legette-Jack said. "We're going to play in transition, but they're going to be able to get back. They really, really run. It's going to be a battle of who can transition more effectively."
UB easily won the regular-season meeting with the Broncos, 71-49, at Alumni Arena on Jan. 3.
A victory by UB would put the Bulls into Saturday's MAC title game and likely assure the Bulls of an NCAA Tournament at-large berth, regardless of the outcome of the final. UB stands No. 20 in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index. A semifinal loss would put UB's at-large chances on shaky ground.
The semifinal is at 1:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena (Radio 1520).
UB ranks eighth in the nation in steals and 17th in the nation in turnovers forced per game, at 19.1. However, Western Michigan is good at protecting the ball. The Broncos made the second-fewest turnovers per game in the MAC (14.9).
"They're probably going to go seven deep," Legette-Jack said. "We're going to throw 12 to 14 at them."
Western Michigan is led by 6-foot-1 junior center Breanna Mobley, who averages 16.3 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. Senior center Marley Hill averages 10.4 ppg.
Western Michigan coach Shane Clipfell said his team kicked up its defensive intensity in Wednesday's 65-54 upset of No. 3 Ball State.
"I think we're a pretty good defensive team," Clipfell said. "I thought we had a little edge to us, I thought we had a little more bounce in our step. I thought we had a little more mentality of we're going to make this happen one way or the other."
Story topics: UB women's basketball