Kentucky basketball: 5 things to know about Buffalo, Wildcats’ second round NCAA Tournament foe

BOISE, Idaho — Sure, the matchup wasn’t set, but everyone knew what would happen. After Kentucky beat Davidson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, there were several questions about Arizona, a team Kentucky would surely face in the second round. Enter Buffalo.

The Bulls blitzed the Wildcats of Arizona 89-68 Thursday night in Boise, Idaho. Buffalo’s 21-point win was the second-largest ever by a No. 13 seed over a No. 4 seed, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Forget about the nationally known names of Arizona players Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins. It’s time to learn about Buffalo players CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins, Jeremy Harris and Wes Clark — all averaging 15-plus points per game for the Bulls.

“We got a lot of blue collar guys, guys who come to work every day,” Perkins said. “Not that we’re the most skilled guys or guys who are first in the NBA draft or stuff like that. We just got guys who come to work every day and are consistent in what they do.”

Buffalo, having already shocked one blue blood, will try to slay another at 5:15 p.m. ET Saturday.

“That’s gonna be real fun,” Harris said of facing Kentucky. “That’s amazing. I can’t even lie. I’ve been looking up to Kentucky probably since I was a freshman in high school when John Wall was there.”

Here are five things to know about Buffalo basketball:

Mid-American Conference champions

Buffalo (27-8) went 15-3 in MAC play to win the regular season conference championship. The Bulls then beat Central Michigan, Kent State and Toledo in three consecutive days to win the MAC conference tournament and book an NCAA Tournament trip.

Buffalo is on a 7-game winning streak.

Bulls get buckets

Buffalo is seventh in the country in points per game (84.9).

The Bulls scored 89 points against Arizona. They haven’t been held below 70 points since a 73-62 loss to St. Bonaventure on Dec. 2.

Junior guard CJ Massinburg and junior forward Nick Perkins — averaging 16.9 and 16.5 points per game — are Buffalo’s leading scorers. Both were first team All-MAC selections.

Buffalo shoots 38 percent from the 3-point line.

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(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Nate Oats

Buffalo coach Nate Oats went straight from the high school ranks to Buffalo’s top assistant when then-coach Bobby Hurley hired him in 2013.

Oats spent 11 seasons as head coach at Romulus High School, just outside Detroit, Michigan. It was there he coached Buffalo senior guard Wes Clark — one of the Bulls’ top players, and a transfer from Missouri.

Oats was hired as Buffalo’s head coach in April 2015 when Hurley took the Arizona State job.

Oats was named MAC Coach of the Year after leading Buffalo to a conference championship. He signed a five-year extension earlier this month that will carry him through the 2023 season.

NCAA Tournament newbies

Buffalo’s first official basketball season was 1915-16, and it took the Bulls almost 100 years to appear in their first NCAA Tournament.

Hurley took the Arizona State job after that 2014-15 season, but Oats brought the Bulls back to the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Buffalo was 0-2 all-time in the tournament before beating Arizona on Thursday.

Second-ever meeting

Kentucky and Buffalo have met just once before: Nov. 16, 2014 at Rupp Arena.

It was just the second game of the season for what would become the 38-1 Wildcats team, but the Bulls led 38-33 at halftime. Kentucky outscored Buffalo 38-14 in the second half to notch a 71-52 win.

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