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UB steps up for another challenge at No. 20 Marquette

University at Buffalo coach Nate Oats knows the task doesn’t get any easier Friday night when his team visits Marquette University.

The 14th-ranked Bulls (11-0) were feeling great about their win Tuesday at Syracuse, which previously was ranked 25th in the country.

But Marquette (9-2) is ranked No. 20 and is playing at a higher level than the Orange according to most statistical measures.

“We’ve got to be better on Friday than we were” at Syracuse, Oats said. “And we’ve got tons of room to improve. We certainly weren’t anywhere close to perfect. We were awful at times.”

Oats was referring to his team’s offense. UB won at Syracuse despite shooting 37 percent overall and 30 percent from behind the arc. The Bulls are happy to have Syracuse’s zone defense behind them.

“Maybe if Marquette watches this game, they’ll think maybe they should play some zone,” Oats said at Syracuse. “But Marquette typically plays man to man. That’s what we’re used to going against. Hopefully it will be a little bit more like the games we’re used to playing.”

UB likely will have to shoot better against the Golden Eagles.

Whereas Syracuse ranks 67th in the nation in offensive efficiency, Marquette ranks 32nd.

The Golden Eagles’ best player, 5-foot-11 junior guard Markus Howard, averages 23.2 points a game, 15th best in the nation.

Marquette already has a win over a top-25 team, having beaten No. 16 Wisconsin 74-69 in overtime on Dec. 8. Marquette also has quality wins over Kansas State and Louisville, both in the top 40 in analytics ratings.

Marquette’s only losses are to No. 1 Kansas 77-68 and No. 22 Indiana 96-73.

Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski knows UB will challenge his squad.

"Buffalo is an outstanding team," he told reporters Thursday in Milwaukee. "We want our team to be challenged, so we can get a realistic picture of where we are at before we head into the Big East."

Wojciechowski said that Bulls senior C.J. Massinburg "is a great player" but that UB has "a number of great players. That's why they're ranked where they're ranked and why they are undefeated.

"They have a lot of guys who can hurt you in different ways. They present a lot of defensive challenges."

UB will have to contend with plenty of size, too. Marquette’s No. 2 scorer is 6-8 Sam Hauser (14.7 ppg), followed by his 6-9 brother Joey Hauser (10.2).

One area in which Marquette will be looking to improve is protecting the ball. The Golden Eagles are making 15 turnovers a game, 270th in the country.

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