Bulls lose to No. 1 Kentucky
After leading at halftime, Buffalo scores 14 points in second half
If the men’s basketball team played as well in the second half of Sunday’s game against the No. 1 team in the nation as it did during the first half – where they were leading by 5 points – then the game could have been the biggest upset in program history.
Buffalo led Kentucky 38-33 at halftime. Junior guard Jarryn Skeete had 14 points, going 4 of 4 from beyond the arc. The Bulls shot 57 percent from three-point range and were leading the turnover battle (10 to 7).
The second half of the game proved why Kentucky (2-0) is the best team in the nation.
The Bulls (1-1) fell to No. 1 Kentucky, 71-52, after scoring only 14 points in the second half and being on the wrong end of a 20-5 run to end the game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was the Bulls’ first-ever matchup against the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
“Unfortunately, there are two halves,” said head coach Bobby Hurley. “The second one was a little tougher for us, particularly on the scoring end. We had a hard time scoring and it was overwhelming at times.”
Buffalo was outrebounded 45-25 and were beat on the boards 20-7 in the second half alone. Junior forward Justin Moss led the team with six rebounds and had eight points. Moss had a big dunk over the Wildcats’ forward Willie Cauley-Stein, regarded as one of the best shot-blockers in the nation, in the first half. SportsCenter later tweeted the video of the dunk.
The Wildcats began the second half on a 9-0 run and tied the game just 50 seconds into the half. Kentucky forward Trey Lyles hit a three-point shot to on the Wildcats’ first possession, then stole the ball from Buffalo and dunked it to tie the game at 38.
It did not get any easier for the Bulls.
Buffalo had a period in which it failed to score for more than five minutes in the second half. Freshman guard Lamonte Bearden scored with three seconds remaining in the game for Buffalo’s first made field goal in the final 10 minutes.
Hurley acknowledged the change of pace for both teams entering the second half.
“Their athleticism and ability of their bigger players to play great defense away from the basket was overwhelming at times,” Hurley said. “We didn’t convert well. A lot more of our shots were contested and a lot harder to find good shots.”
Skeete led all players with 16 points, going 6 of 8 from the field and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Rodell Wigginton had 15 points on 3-of-8 shooting off the bench.
Senior forward Will Regan and sophomore forward Shannon Evans combined to score just two points. Regan, a preseason All Mid-American East selection, has yet to make a field goal this season. The pair combined to shoot 0 of 9 in the game.
Kentucky implemented a “Blue-White” two-set rotation this season due to the surplus of effective freshmen and sopohomores on the team. Hurley admits the team had problems slowing down the Wildcats’ fast-paced offense with rested players.
“We wanted to find ways to be creative about slowing the game down,” Hurley said. “On film, they’re exceptional at changing ends of the floor with their athleticism. Generally, there are fresh bodies coming at you.”
Kentucky was favorited to win by more than 30 points. Kentucky head coach John Calipari was impressed by Buffalo’s performance.
“[Buffalo] lost three of its starters, had two of the starters back and pretty much had a brand new team,” Calipari said. “And they came in here and did that? Wow. Hats off to them.”
The Bulls continue their season Tuesday when they travel to Arlington, Texas to play Texas-Arlington (1-0). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.