By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe the nation considers Buffalo a Cinderella story in this year’s NCAA Tournament after it stunned No. 4 seed Arizona in dominating fashion Thursday.
The Bulls don’t see it that way going into Saturday’s game at 5:15 p.m. EST in Boise against No. 5 seed Kentucky.
“Everybody thinks we should be here. And yesterday’s game wasn’t like a fluke or whatever you call it. But I think we have a very confident team. And I don’t really like the term ‘Cinderella team,’” said Buffalo guard Jeremy Harris at Friday’s media opportunity.
“We’re a team that plays very hard. We’ve got some tough guards. We just feed off of each other. We give each other confidence all the game.”
Buffalo players believe keeping their focus is the biggest key against Kentucky, which has won eight of its last nine games.
“I would just say it’s really a focus thing. I think with some people they get a little success you start to get out of what you’ve been doing from the jump,” Buffalo’s Nick Perkins said. “Really just staying focused. Kentucky is a little different team from Arizona. They’ve got more guards and more perimeter-based team. The scouting report is going to be a little different.
“I think we match up pretty well with their guards. They’ve got some guards who are pretty good on the ball screen and stuff like that. But I also think they’re lacking on the inside with defending and stuff like that.
“One strength I think they have is pretty much their size. They’re a good rebounding team and stuff like that. But I don’t think they can stay with us in transition and stuff like that. They’ve got a lot of big guys, they play a little bit too much, and I think that will play to our favor.”
Teammate C.J. Massinburg was not quite as blunt but he showed no fear of UK’s Nick Richards or Sacha Killeya-Jones.
“I feel like this game is going to be a little different than last game. Last game we wanted to shoot all the 3s to like kind of expose their 7-footers. But this game I feel like my big guy, Nick Perkins, is going to get a lot inside and dominate and play his game how he’s been playing the whole year,” Massinburg said.
“I think we match up with them pretty good. I mean, they’ve got players on the boards, we know they can play. They’re real good. But they put on their shorts just like we put on our shorts,” Harris said. “Kentucky is a very good team, as we all know. But I think experience should give us just a little bit of an edge. I think the team that plays the hardest is going to come out with the win.”
The Boise crowd definitely was behind 13-seed Buffalo on Thursday. It figures to be the same way Saturday.
“I’d say we did feed off it a little bit. I felt like we were in Alumni Arena in Buffalo. Shout-out to the fans out here in Boise that supported us, and the Buffalo fans that traveled out to see us,” Harris said.
“When we went on a run at the end and everybody seeing what we was made of, we had the whole arena erupting, and it was a great feeling,” Massinburg said.
“That second half was something crazy. We started hitting all the shots. Things really started going our way, I could hear the crowd behind us. It made us feel good. It gave us a little bit of confidence to finish the game,” Perkins said.