UB men's team cruise in NCAA opener

The Bulls send Bobby Hurley's Sun Devils packing

Howard Simon
March 22, 2019 - 7:45 pm

Photo: Brett Rojo - USA TODAY Sports

Handling the pressure of being a six-seed and a favorite in their NCAA first round matchup with Arizona State was no problem at all for the University at Buffalo.

The Bulls were trailing the 11th-seeded Sun Devils 14-10 with 12:46 left in the first half when they put their game into high gear. A 21-5 run over the next 5:25 left the Bulls in control. They led 44-31 at the half and were up by as many as 25 in the second half en route to their 32nd victory in 35 games. The Sun Devils never got closer than nine points in the second half. It marks the first time in program history the Bulls have won a game in the tournament in back-to-back years.

UB had four players score in double figures, but senior Nick Perkins got the Bulls going. Coming off the bench, as he always does, the MAC’s Sixth Man of the Year keyed that first half run. Perkins was looking to bounce back after a rough game in the MAC Championship against Bowling Green. He totaled just five points and ended up fouling out. The Ypsilanti, Michigan native recorded a double-double in this contest, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds. 

Senior Jeremy Harris had the same double-double for the Bills. Harris was a chilly 3-of-11 from the field in the first half, but then hit on all five of his field goal attempts in the second half. In addition to the 21 points and 10 rebounds, Harris had four assists and two steals. Fellow senior CJ Massinburg ended up with 18 points, and sophomore Jayvon Graves added 13. The Bulls shot 51-percent from the field, despite opening just 4-of-14, and dominated the boards, out-rebounding Arizona State 42-26. UB had a big edge in second-chance points thanks to 13 offensive rebounds.

The Bulls brought their trademark strong defense with them to Tulsa. Arizona State’s leading scorer on the season, Luguentz Dort, had 12 points, but most of them came with the game well in hand for Buffalo. Dort, the PAC 12 Freshman of the Year, was held to 4-of-12 shooting and 1-of-7 from three. UB’s guards took turns defending Dort and wearing him down.  

The Sun Devils, coached by former UB head coach Bobby Hurley, were probably hurt by the fatigue factor. They played Wednesday night in Dayton, beat St John’s, flew to Tulsa, landed around 3 a.m. and had to play a rested Bulls team. Perhaps that fatigue played a role in their dismal 3-of-22 shooting performance from three-point range.

For the second straight year, UB took apart a PAC 12 team from the state of Arizona. Last year, the Bulls stunned four-seed Arizona by a 89-68 score.

UB now moves on to the Round of 32 where they will face the three-seed, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (27-6) were the regular season champions of the Big 12. They eliminated Northern Kentucky in the first game of the day in Tulsa, 72-57. Texas Tech has won 10 of their last 11 games. The loss was to West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament.

Sunday's game is scheduled to tip-off at 6:10 p.m. and will be televised on TNT. You can listen to the full game, along with pre-game and post-game coverage on WGR 550 and ESPN 1520. 

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