ASU men’s basketball falls to Buffalo in first round of NCAA Tournament

ASU's national championship pursuit ends with disappointing 91-74 loss

After an inspiring victory over the St. John’s Red Storm in Wednesday’s First Four matchup, ASU’s national championship hopes came to an end Friday as they fell 91-74 to the No.6 Buffalo Bulls. 

Coach Bobby Hurley’s former team was in control for most of the contest, capitalizing on poor Sun Devil shooting and a litany of early ASU fouls to build their lead.  

Throughout the first half, Sun Devil guards were able to penetrate deep into the Buffalo defense and pepper the rim with shots. The trio of freshman Luguentz Dort, sophomore Remy Martin and redshirt junior Rob Edwards all found success near the basket early in the period, but as the Bulls interior defensive intensity ramped up, ASU’s ability to create consistent offense close to the basket evaporated. 

The Sun Devils were forced to rely on their outside shot, and in turn submitted one of their worst three-point shooting performances as a team in recent memory. The team missed their first 11 attempts from behind the arc and didn’t see a three pointer fall until sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence connected at the 13:43 mark of the second half. 

Buffalo took their first lead of the game at the 11:33 mark of the first half and never looked back, immediately executing a 15-5 run over the next four minutes to expand their lead to 31-19. 

Defensively the Sun Devils struggled throughout the first half containing Buffalo guard CJ Massinburg, as the Mid-American Conference player of the year scored nine first half points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range. The loss of Dort to two early fouls fundamentally changed the outlook of the Sun Devil defense, as neither Martin nor Edwards could replicate Dort’s ability to curb dribble penetration.

Massinburg’s knack for driving into the teeth of the ASU defense and find easy buckets for his teammates was too effective for the Sun Devils to handle, as the Bulls entered halftime with a 44-31 lead.   

The second half was much of the same for both teams, as Buffalo’s relentless offensive efficiency quelled any chance of an ASU comeback. The Sun Devils improved slightly from beyond the arc, finishing the period going 3-of-13 on three-pointers, yet it was all for naught, as the Bulls’ cohesiveness and proficiency on both ends of the floor was just too much for ASU to overcome.

In his final game for the Sun Devils, redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham submitted another stellar performance with 22 points and eight rebounds. Cheatham did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 16 of his team leading 22 points as the Sun Devils tried to claw their way back into the contest. 

Ultimately, the Sun Devils were unable to cut into the Buffalo lead, effectively ending ASU’s season.


Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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