Buffalo Bulls Lose Hard Fought Game To West Virginia Mountaineers


The first appearance in the NCAA Tournament didn’t go as well for the Buffalo Bulls as they had hoped, as they lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Round of 64. It was a highly entertaining game, as the Bulls showed they were not to be taken lightly after righting the ship following a shaky start.

The Mountaineers got off to a hot start, as the Bulls were visibly over-excited for the game, and it impacted their play. West Virginia got out to a 7-0 lead to begin the game, and opening up a lead as big as 13 points in the first half. Buffalo was able to settle it down and cut it down to three, but found themselves down 10 again at halftime as they closed the half poorly, not scoring the last 4:25 of the first half. They turned the ball over four times in the last 4:25, missing all four of their shot attempts and two free throws.

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They didn’t let that get them down though, as they came out in the second half looking like a totally different team, reeling off the first seven points of the second half. While Buffalo was able to calm themselves down and cut down on their turnovers a bit, they were unable to slow the Mountaineers down offensively, so they were never able to really cut into the lead for a period of time after the hot start. The Mountaineers were able to keep them at bay, as they started the second half 8-10 from the field, opening up an 11 point lead.

Then the Mountaineers went on a drought, something that seems to happen more often than you would like to see in college basketball. Buffalo was able to build some momentum, and even tied the game with 2:44 left on an Xavier Ford three-pointer. The Senior forward did everything he could to get the Bulls their first NCAA tournament win in program history, scoring a team-high 16 points.

Unfortunately that was the last point Buffalo would score, as the Mountaineers scored the final six points of the game to pull out the hard fought victory. A three-pointer by Tarik Phillips, only his sixth make of the season from deep, put the Mountaineers up five with 29 seconds left, essentially sealing the win.

The Bulls were able to hang with the Mountaineers this afternoon, and could have won the game had they not did themselves in with unforced errors. They turned the ball over 17 times, much higher than the 11 they averaged during the season. 10 of them were self-inflicted, as the Mountaineers had only seven steals in the game, down from their 11 they averaged on the season. Freshman Lamonte Bearden seemed to be flustered at times during the game, as the atmosphere seemed to overwhelm him sometimes, resulting in seven turnovers.

The Bulls also hurt themselves at the foul line, where they are usually solid. This matchup worked in their favor, as they get to the foul line at one of the highest frequencies in the NCAA, averaging 24.8 attempts per game, and the Mountaineers foul as much as anyone in the NCAA. They were unable to take advantage of this though, not converting at the line enough as they made only 16-25, while the Mountaineers went 19-27 from the line.

The Bulls are a relatively young team, which doesn’t help when going up against a team with the experience that the Mountaineers and head coach Bob Huggins have in tournament time. Without a senior point guard like Juwan Staten, it took the Bulls longer than they would have liked to get acclimated to the setting, and they were unable to get a basket when they needed it most, something Staten got for himself or teammates seemingly at will.

The outcome of the game this afternoon was disappointing for the Bulls, but they are definitely a team on the rise. While losing Seniors Ford and Will Regan will hurt, there is still plenty of talent that will be back next season. With talented underclassmen such as Bearden and Shannon Evans in the backcourt, and leading scorer Justin Moss returning in the frontcourt, the Bulls have a great chance to return to the tournament next season and try again for the first win in program history in NCAA Tournament play.

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