Buffalo vs. Arizona State
TULSA, Okla. — Nate Oats didn’t need to outsmart Bobby Hurley, the person who gave him his shot as a college basketball coach, then made him his top choice as his successor.
The University at Buffalo men’s basketball coach needed to utilize a quick yet comprehensive study of the opponent. Then, the sixth-seeded Bulls steadily dissected the 11th-seeded Sun Devils for a 91-74 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at the BOK Center.
Oats was even hesitant to label what he did as “outsmarting” Hurley.
Dontay Caruthers, UB’s defensive specialist, looked at it from a player’s point of view.
“I don’t think he really outsmarted him,” Caruthers said. “Oats really focused on the stuff that we do. We always say that if we take care of the stuff that we do, on our side of the ball, it’s hard for a team to beat us.
“Oats coached with (Hurley) for a very long time as his assistant. But I think it just comes down to the players and how they go out and deliver.”
By emphasizing its own strengths, UB (32-3) focused its guard-dominant offense inside the perimeter and shot 64 percent (21 for 33) inside the arc.
The Bulls shut down Arizona State’s 3-point shooting, which entered at 34.2 percent. And in the first 10 minutes
of the game, the Bulls forced turnovers and built their offense off transition, utilizing a 14-2 run to take a 24-16 lead, en route to a 25-2 run and a 44-31 lead at halftime.
“At this point, in March, you kind of are who you are,” Oats said.
Now, what UB is, is a program that has won first-round NCAA Tournament games in consecutive years and faces third-seeded Texas Tech on Sunday in the second round.
Leading up to the game against his former boss, Oats also gathered some outside reconnaissance on what a team in his situation should do.
He said after the win against the Sun Devils (23-11) that he reached out to coaches whose teams had been either No. 6 seeds or 11 seeds in the NCAA Tournament — coaches from Cincinnati and Florida, in particular — and asked them for some advice.
Two of the four No. 11 seeds each year end up playing only days after having won First Four games.
“A couple of them told me that they got in the game and just realized, that the team that had played in Dayton (in a play-in game) just didn’t have energy,” said Oats, whose team led by as many as 25 points midway through the second half. “So, we played fast to begin with, and we really wanted to speed the tempo up on them, just to try to get into their lack of depth in the back court, and they had tired legs. It showed in their 3-point percentage.”
The Bulls negated Arizona State’s already-hampered perimeter game as guard Remy Martin has been hobbled by a groin injury he sustained in a Pac-12 semifinal.
The Sun Devils went 3 for 22 on 3-point attempts, including 0 for 9 in the first half.
“We exploited what they had,” said Nick Perkins, who led the Bulls with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and registered his fifth double-double this season. “The matchups. They’re a really big team, compared to us. We’re really a small, guard-oriented team and play four guards, one big the whole time. All (Oats) really did was just get the matchups right, and we were able to attack with our guards and cause trouble for them. That was the mismatch.”
Perkins was one of four players to UB’s largest lead of the game, 74-49. ASU makes first three of half, missed first six. score in double figures, along with Jeremy Harris (21 points), CJ Massin burg (18) and Jayvon Graves (13). Ha also had 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
UB had 42 rebounds to Arizona State’s 26, including a 13-6 advantag on the offensive end.
“We just had to man up and stres rebounding,” Oats said. “Our guys di really good job on the glass.”
Hurley, who coached UB in 20132014 and 2014-2015, and led the Bull to their first NCAA Tournament ber in 2015, wished Oats and the Bulls nothing but the best as they prepare face Texas Tech (27-6), which defeate 14th-seeded Northern Kentucky, 72After the game, the two coaches shook hands and headed into their respective locker rooms. But Hurley snuffed out any further discussion o the Oats versus Hurley narrative in opening statement on the podium.
“I think the world of Nate Oats as a coach, as a person, as for what he’s done for Buffalo basketball and how personality rubbed off and how hard his team competes and plays the ga Hurley said. “Otherwise, I’ll answer questions at this point about Buffalo
CJ Massinburg and his UB teammates used a 21-5 spurt to take a lead they would never relinquish. The Bulls will now play Texas Tech at 6:10 p.m. Sunday (TNT). UB