Somehow, the Bulls pulled off the upset that no one saw coming. Since Selection Sunday, Buffalo was put down throughout the media landscape as a matchup with #4 Arizona was the worst possible upset that the Bulls could’ve faced-going up against four NBA prospects is not an easy task.
In surprising fashion, UB didn’t just win Thursday’s game. In fact, they routed the Wildcats and put together one of the finest 40 minutes this team could play. Like Wes Clark said in numerous interviews this week: the world “should’ve picked the handsome guys to win.”
Last night we were too excited to put up a lengthy recap, so here’s a little more in-depth of what went right for the Bulls:
Arizona didn’t play their game
I don’t think this one has been stated enough. Arizona ran with the Bulls and that was mistake number one. Here’s a team that’s 222nd in the country in adjusted tempo and chooses to keep up with one of the best in the nation at pushing the pace and producing results.
At the pace this game was going, it was only a matter of time before the Wildcats’ forwards ran out of juice. Ayton looked gassed with 10 minutes to go and that’s really when the Bulls started to run away with the game.
Can’t score if you don’t get the ball
After putting up monster games in the PAC-12 Tournament, Deandre Ayton was relatively quiet for much of the night, finishing with a respectable 14 points and 8 rebounds. That is an amazing feat even though Nate Oats kind of just shrugged it off in the post-game presser.
UB used a combination of insane ball pressure from their guards and bottling up the post to prevent the Arizona bigs from doing damage. Every pass headed to the interior was contested and if it made it there, Nick Perkins or Ikenna Smart were there to disrupt the flow whoever had the ball. There were also a ton of instances where UB guards came in and knocked the ball a little loose, sending Arizona’s forwards into panic mode.
The result meant less chances for an attack down low by the Wildcats—not a good sign for a team that relies on the front court so heavily.
UB couldn’t miss from beyond the arc on Thursday, especially in the second half where they shot over 64 percent. Arizona’s defense looked like MAC opponents that struggled to keep track of where the dribble drive was going, leaving way too many open looks.
UB showed off their scrappy side in a tremendous way throughout the game. Players had no problem diving for loose balls and getting 50/50 rebounds. The Bulls looked hungry, and that’s the effort that will be needed for a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Nate Oats said they should’ve been up by ten at the half. It was a bold thing to say but it made sense because UB had a whopping nine turnovers to their name that prevented a two-point advantage from being larger. The Bulls cleaned it up in the next half, surrendering just one giveaway.
UB was hands down the best team that showed up to that game. They had a straightforward game plan that was executed perfectly. Now the Bulls get a mini-break to prepare for #5 Kentucky, a much better team defensively, but suffers from inexperience. This isn’t the first time Oats has coached against the Wildcats though, as UB led a star-studded Kentucky team at halftime under Bobby Hurley. Hopefully the past experience scouting Calipari-coached teams will go a long way.