Buffalo Coach: "We Played Harder Than Arizona"

"We had the best guards on the floor," Nate Oats said

Ferrall On The Bench
March 16, 2018 - 8:55 am

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No. 13 Buffalo beat No. 4 Arizona, 89-68, in a first-round stunner Thursday, as guards Wes Clark and Jeremy Harris erupted for 25 and 23 points, respectively. Buffalo led just 40-38 at halftime but outscored Arizona 49-30 in the second half to turn a close game into a rout.

Buffalo wasn’t the least bit surprised.

“I told them if we play harder than Arizona and we don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to win the game,” Buffalo head coach Nate Oats said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We only had one turnover in the second half, and I thought we played harder than them. It helped to knock down a couple threes, too.”

Indeed, Buffalo shot 15-of-30 from deep, with Clark and Harris drilling three threes apiece and guard C.J. Massinburg knocking down five. Arizona, meanwhile, shot just 2-of-18 (11.1 percent) from distance, as Buffalo smothered the Wildcats on the perimeter all night. The Bulls also held Deandre Ayton in check, limiting him to 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting.

“In college basketball, it’s a lot easier to take away a big guy,” Oats said. “The lane’s not as wide. There’s no 3-second (rule) in the lane on defense. He’s going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft – he’s a monster – but you can do things in college that you can’t do in the NBA to take a big guy away.”

Allonzo Trier had a forgettable final game for Arizona. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three.

“I felt like we had the best guards on the floor, and we did tonight,” Oats said. “I thought our kids, Davonta Jordan and Dontay Caruthers are two of the best defensive guards in the country. Their overall presence on defense and their ball pressure really caused fits to Arizona’s guards tonight.”

Oats’ game plan was to front Ayton, provide backside help when necessary, and stay in front of Arizona’s guards. Easier said than done, right?

Well, Buffalo did it.

“I told our guys going into the game, ‘Listen, you’re not going to completely shut these guys down,’” Oats said. “I didn’t think we were going to be that good defensively. I said, ‘We might have to trade made them three for two tonight. I said we might need to go 20-for-50 (from three) this game.’ We didn’t take 50 – that was probably a stretch – but 15-for-30 ain’t bad.”

Buffalo (27-8) will face No. 5 Kentucky (25-10) in the Round of 32 on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. ET. Kentucky beat Davidson, 78-73, on Thursday despite not making a single three-pointer.

The Wildcats do, however, like to push tempo and get up and down the floor.

“That’s kind of more how we play,” Oats said. “I thought the fact that Arizona didn’t play like that was to our advantage. Now we’re going to have to adjust. Kentucky doesn’t shoot it well, either. Obviously that plays to our advantage, but they do play fast. Our transition defense was not great early in this game against Arizona; it’s going to have to be at an elite level against Kentucky.”