Coached by former Duke Blue Devils star Bobby Hurley, the 12-seed Buffalo Bulls were a Cinderella pick for many bracketeers, particularly in yesterday’s matchup against 5-seed West Virginia Mountaineers.
Unfortunately, fate had other ideas. In spite of a great effort by Buffalo, West Virginia’s experience is what ultimately won out in a 68-62 victory that was a dogfight from beginning to end, even if the Mountaineers didn’t trail once.
The aggressive man-to-man defense engineered by WVU head coach Bob Huggins was the highlight of the game, as the Mountaineers forced 17 Buffalo turnovers.
Buffalo struggled even though Hurley’s men shot 45.5 percent from the field and managed to keep up with West Virginia in the rebounding game. On the offensive end, it was sophomore Devin Williams that led the Mountaineers with 17 points and nine rebounds; Senior Juwan Staten also added 15 points and seven assists.
The long and short of Buffalo’s story was that they just couldn’t get their momentum going soon enough. Careless turnovers and trying too hard to push the action is what burned them. Considering this was the team’s first NCAA tournament appearance and it drew a tough matchup against a West Virginia squad that has been a tournament staple for years, mistakes were not an option.
But that doesn’t mean Buffalo’s future is not bright. Sure, they play in the small Mid-American Conference, home to plenty of mid-major schools like Central Michigan and Akron, but Bobby Hurley used his incredible coaching pedigree to turn this program around and make them something special.
This season, his pesky style had the Bulls ranking 28th in the nation in scoring and 16th in rebounding. Even though they lost today and committed way too many turnovers, his and his players’ never-say-die attitude was made loud and clear from start to finish. Trailing by as many as 13 at one point, the team never stopped trying to close the gap and ultimately win.
That all being said, Buffalo deserves a great deal of respect after its regular season success and incredible effort in its first ever big dance. Going forward, this is going to be a team to watch and not one to count out.
*Section Photo credit to Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mark Zerof, USA Today Sports