When a bull starts charging, it’s difficult to stop it.
And when that bull becomes unconscious from three-point range, all you can do is sit there, watch your Final Four dreams fade away, and accept defeat. Shot after shot swished through what seemed like an infinitely wide net at Boise as the Buffalo Bulls pulled off the greatest upset of Thursday’s slate of March Madness games, annihilating Arizona 89-68.
The MAC’s lone tournament team nailed exactly half of its threes, sinking an astounding 15-of-30 from beyond the arc, dancing its way to the program’s first-ever tournament victory in three tries.
Buffalo entered the second half with a two-point, 32-30 lead and on the first play of the second half, C.J. Massinburg struck from long distance at the top of the arc. Little did the Wildcats know that Massinburg’s three was just the start of an unstoppable storm. A dejected-looking Arizona team couldn’t possibly string together a run, watching the game evaporate from its hands one possession and one three at a time. Here was the turning point, Arizona’s final gasp before Buffalo turned the basketball game into a demolition.
TURNING POINT: Buffalo up 7. Dontay Caruthers misses the layup, stays with it, and kicks it to his teammate for 3. The East High grad is all heart and hustle. pic.twitter.com/KH4cjcT2IV— Toby Motyka (@TobyMotyka) March 16, 2018
The lead grew to as much as 25 points as Buffalo rebounded each Arizona miss and converted it into easy points on the other end.
Massinburg (19 points) led the charge with five threes, while Missouri-transfer Wes Clark (25) and Jeremy Harris (23) added three apiece to Buffalo’s absolute domination over the Pac-12’s final team left in the March Madness field.
In a game of contrasts, Arizona couldn’t buy a three, successfully converting on just 2-of-15 attempts. The 4-seed entered the game on a five-game winning streak but the Wildcats couldn’t heat up from the opening tip. Although Sean Miller’s team briefly claimed narrow leads in the first half, Buffalo controlled from the opening tip — leading by six points just minutes into the contest.
Although projected NBA lottery pick DeAndre Ayton was a force in the paint (14 points, 13 rebounds) due to his 7-foot-1 frame, Buffalo’s quick and shifting defense was able to prevent Ayton from scoring at will on the undersized Bulls. But offensively, the Bulls neutralized Ayton’s rim protecting ability and often scored as a result of a long jumper or fast break.
Jeremy Harris making number one pick DeAndre Ayton move pic.twitter.com/NbaO0JPmzX— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) March 16, 2018
Buffalo’s 21-point win propels the Nate Oats and the Bulls into a second round date against the blue-blooded Kentucky Wildcats, a 5-seed who earned a close win over 12-seed Davidson on Thursday. The Bulls will have their first shot at a Sweet 16 on Saturday, in hopes of becoming the first MAC team to punch a ticket to the third stage of March Madness since the 2012 Ohio Bobcats.