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Marquette's loss helps UB move up in AP Poll

The University at Buffalo gained one place, from 20th to 19th, in the AP Men's Basketball poll announced Monday.

Ironically, the Bulls (13-1) moved up because the only team it lost to, Marquette, fell from 16th to 21st in the poll of 64 media members.

Coach Nate Oats' team also is ranked 20th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Bulls were tied for 20th in that poll last week.

UB will put its ranking on the line Tuesday night against a formidable Mid-American Conference opponent, Toledo, at 7 p.m. in Alumni Arena.

The Bulls defeated the Rockets, 76-66, in the championship game of the MAC postseason tournament in Cleveland. UB also defeated Toledo, 104-94, at home last January. UB will play the return game at Toledo on Feb. 16.

It was the ninth week in a row that UB was ranked in the AP Poll, most ever by a Mid-American Conference team in one season.

The Bulls won their only game last week, defeating Eastern Michigan, 74-58, in Ypsilanti in their conference opener.
Toledo (12-2) fell at home to Ball State, 79-64, in its conference opener.

In the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, UB was ranked second and Toledo third behind Gonzaga.

UB was tied with Iowa at No. 20 in last week's USA Today poll, but the Hawkeyes dropped to 25th this week. Except for Marquette, the same teams that were ranked higher than the Bulls last week remained so, although the order has changed.

Behind the Bulls in the polls, TCU, St. Johns and Iowa State moved into the AP top 25 and Nebraska and Wisconsin fell out.

In the Coaches Poll, St. John's and Iowa State cracked the top 25, Wisconsin and Nebraska dropped out.

St. John's gained by virtue of its 89-69 rout of Marquette at Carnesecca Arena in Flushing. The Red Storm held Marquette's Marcus Howard to eight points on 2 of 15 shooting. Howard had scored 45 in the 103-85 win over UB in Milwaukee on Dec. 21.

As for individual pollsters, Graham Couch of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal dropped UB one place to ninth on his ballot. Dick Vitale of ESPN moved them up from 24th to 20th on his ballot and John Feinstein of the Washington Post had them at No. 14 after placing them 19th last week.

Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star again did not list UB in his top 25.

Duke and Michigan were 1-2 in the AP poll for the third week in a row. However, in the USA Today Coaches poll, Virginia jumped past Duke into first.

Michigan (15-0) and Virginia (13-0) are the last unbeaten Division I teams.

Since the loss to Marquette, UB has defeated Canisius and Eastern Michigan handily. Defense keyed both victories. Buffalo ranks second in the MAC in turnovers forced per game (16.1) and in blocked shots (4.9). Offensively, the Bulls lead the conference with 17.4 assists per game and a 1.51 assist-to-turnover ratio and are tied for first with a plus-4.4 turnover margin.

Senior guard CJ Massinburg is the UB scoring leader at 17.8 ppg and is shooting 44.3 on 3-point attempts. Seniors Jeremy Harris (13.7) and Nick Perkins (13.4) are other scoring leaders on a well-balanced unit.

Ball State ended Toledo's win streak at 10 games. The other Toledo loss was at Wright State on Nov. 14, 84-74.

The Rockets never got untracked against a Ball State team that is expected to be a challenger for the MAC title.

UB has to be wary of the Rockets, who are an experienced team with good size and shooting. they have four starters back from last year's MAC tournament runner-up team.

Senior guard Jaelan Sanford, who has started 114 career games, leads the Rockets in scoring at 17.8. He is a 3-point shooting threat and one of the best free-throw shooters in the MAC.

Other starters are 6-foot-8 senior forward Nate Navigato, 6-0 sophomore guard Marreon Jackson, 6-6 junior forward Willie Jackson and 6-11, center Luke Knapke. Sixth man Chris Darrington was the Rockets' leading scorer against Ball State with 13 points. He is a 6-1 guard who transferred from Tennessee. Freshman A.J. Edu, 6-10, provides frontcourt depth.

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