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Buffalo’s precision overwhelms ASU, Sun Devils bounced from tourney

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - MARCH 22: Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils yells to his team during the first half of the first round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Buffalo Bulls at BOK Center on March 22, 2019 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Arizona State Sun Devils received a fortunate matchup on Wednesday in a win over St. John’s and they got the opposite on Friday.

No. 6 seed Buffalo, a team with only three losses, kept coming, and coming and coming against the Sun Devils and eventually overwhelmed Bobby Hurley’s No. 11 seed in a 91-74 ASU loss that eliminated them from the NCAA Tournament.

It was not shocking to see the Sun Devils, who massively struggle with putting together a consistent 40 minutes, slowly crumble against the Bulls, whose now 32-3 record represents their consistency.

In the opening seven minutes, ASU played tremendous defense against Buffalo and led 14-10. The problem was executing after playing that defense, also known as getting the defensive rebound. Buffalo scored all 10 of their points via offensive rebounds.

That’s an inexcusable bonus to provide a great team, and as it was, the Bulls finished the first half on a 34-17 run.

During that run and the rest of the game, every time a slight spark lit for the Sun Devils, Buffalo mounted enough of a response to quell any potential momentum.

“They were quicker to the ball than we were in the first half and their pressure is disruptive, their guards get after you and pressure you, so they take you out of your offense,” Hurley said after the game.

It speaks to how great of a team Buffalo is that with a 13-point halftime lead, the closest ASU got was within nine at the 17:55 mark. Looking at the game from that point on over four-minute periods, the ASU deficit grew from nine to 17 to 23 with 10 minutes remaining. The Sun Devils gave Buffalo a chance to close out the game early and the Bulls didn’t hesitate.

Arizona State didn’t play their best game but they also came up against one heck of a basketball team that was well-built to withstand any edge the Sun Devils would have when it came to size and athleticism.

“It’s no accident they’ve won 32 games,” Hurley said of Buffalo.

Shot selection also played a huge role in opening up more opportunities for the Bulls.

The Sun Devils started 0-for-10 from 3-point range and were 3-for-22 overall in the game. Buffalo was plus-16 on the glass and had 13 offensive rebounds.

In what was Zylan Cheatham’s last game as a Sun Devil, the senior went out playing well on his own accord. He had a team-high 22 points, eight rebounds and three assists, with an additional two steals and a block.

“I hope my fans and I hope the city remembers me in a positive light,” he said. “I think we’re going in the right direction. I think we’ve taken another step in the right direction as far as from last year to this year. So, to leave the program in the hands of guys like Remy, Romello, Taeshon, the list goes on and on, I know the future is extremely bright and I know this isn’t the end of Arizona State basketball.

ASU ends the year 23-11. That’s the most wins the program has had in a season since 2008-09 when Herb Sendek’s team went 25-10.

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