Arizona upset by Buffalo, bounced from NCAA Tournament
Yes, the Arizona Wildcats won both the Pac-12 regular season and the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Wildcats also showed signs all year of being one of Sean Miller’s most undisciplined teams, and that shined through in their first-round 89-68 loss to No. 13 seed Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament.
The loss marked only the third time a No. 13 seed has beaten a No. 4 seed by at least 20 points in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.
“We ran into a team that played well on a night when we didn’t,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said after the game.
All credit should go to the Bulls, who played excellent team basketball and hit shots.
Anyone picking an upset had to have an answer for how Buffalo would stop the Wildcats’ stud freshman Deandre Ayton. They did so by double-teaming and even triple-teaming Ayton both on and off the ball.
Ayton went through many stretches of the game without scoring or even attempting a field goal, and his Wildcat teammates couldn’t carry the load in his place.
“I hate to see him go out in the first round,” Miller said of Ayton, admitting he was surprised with how well Buffalo shut Ayton down. “It’s not his fault, really. He had 13 and 14. I thought Buffalo pressured us and took us out of some things and negated some of the things that he’s done all season long.
“I think sometimes you have to give the defense and the other team the credit. They were able to pressure us at a level that hasn’t happened very often.”
Ayton still managed 14 points and 13 rebounds, but Allonzo Trier shot just 4-of-15 for 10 points. Dusan Ristic’s 14 made him the only other Wildcat to be in double figures.
Buffalo played with the confidence all teams in upset situations have: they knew they could beat Arizona, and they weren’t wrong.
They shot the ball with that poise and, to be fair to Arizona, were hitting nearly everything.
The Bulls shot 54.8 percent from the field and made 15-of-30 of their 3-point attempts. The trio of CJ Massinburg, Wes Clark and Jeremy Harris shot a combined 26-of-45, finishing with 67 points.
Arizona, meanwhile, shot 2-of-18 from deep.
The story of the game played on throughout, but only showed on the scoreboard as the second half went on.
Ristic’s jumper with 16:14 to go cut Buffalo’s lead to 49-48 in what had been a close game up to that point.
The upset potential became real when Clark’s layup went down with 12:42 remaining to have it at 60-52, but there was no realization or fight from the Wildcats to see their season was soon going to be over if they didn’t respond.
The Bulls went on a 19-8 run to lead 79-60 with 4:42 to go, with Arizona never even making a run higher than four straight points, and the game was effectively over.
Miller spoke after the game like he knew the significance of the way his team performed.
“It’s difficult to exit the tournament the way we have because it doesn’t shed light on a lot of the great moments, a lot of the things especially these two guys have fought hard to establish on a season that represented 27 wins and the Pac-12 tournament, regular season championship,” he said. “All that goes away when you lose in the tournament, but in particular, lose in the first round the way we did.”
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