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Shock the World II? UB's offense faces tough Kentucky D

BOISE, Idaho -- Does the running, gunning University at Buffalo basketball team have enough offense to shock the world for the second time in three days in the NCAA Tournament?

The Bulls rank sixth in the nation in scoring and are coming off an 89-68 rout of Arizona on Thursday. But UB faces an even tougher offensive challenge against Kentucky Saturday in the second round of college basketball's March Madness.

Arizona ranked 126th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and No. 195 in defending three-point shots.

Kentucky ranks 22nd in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and No. 4 in defending three-point shots.

"If you look at the defensive numbers, Kentucky's defensive numbers are much, much better than Arizona's were," said UB coach Nate Oats. "We're going to struggle to score a little bit more against Kentucky than we did against Arizona, I think."

Kentucky (25-10), ranked No. 18 in the nation, has seven players with wingspans of 7 feet or more. The Wildcats' top five players all are freshmen and all were ranked among the top 50 high school recruits in the nation a year ago.

UB's offense has been amazingly consistent this season.

The Bulls (27-8) have cracked the 80-point mark 26 times in 35 games, tied for most in the nation. UB is 40th in the nation in shooting percentage and has cracked 50 percent shooting in 11 of its last 14 games.

UB guard CJ Massinburg said he's confident the Bulls can keep it rolling.

"I feel like the way we won showed everybody that it wasn't a fluke," Massinburg said. "You heard Charles Barkley, you hear people saying that we dominated them. And that's not really a fluke, you know? And I feel like the best team isn't done, and we're going to show you tomorrow."

UB made 15 of 30 three-point shots in upsetting Arizona.

Kentucky's long-armed players are good at closing out on perimeter shooters to make those three-point attempts tougher.

UB, however, does not live and die by the three ball.

The Bulls' half-court offense is based on spacing the floor and running pick-and-roll screens on the perimeter. That allows UB's good guards – especially point guard Wes Clark and Massinburg – to drive into the lane. If the shot at the rim isn't there, then the ball kicks back out to the perimeter.

UB ranked 94th in the nation in terms of percentage of points that came via three-pointers.

Of course, UB does a lot of its scoring by getting to the basket in transition, running the floor off turnovers and misses by the opponent.

UB plays at the 17th fastest tempo in the nation.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said his team is prepared for a track meet.

"I thought they were top-five in how fast they were playing, not 17th," Calipari said Friday. "And they're creating shots for each other. They're an unselfish team, too. They don't just come down and fire. They're creating good shots for each other. They use the lane to create opportunities on the perimeter. And they've got a lot of mismatch problems."

Clark said the ability of UB's guards to get into the lane and disrupt Kentucky's defensive spacing will be key. So will UB's unselfish ball movement.

"The ball's gonna have to be moved," Clark said. "But you've got to be cognizant of their guys being in the passing lanes."

"You can't just window-wash the ball just to get some movement," Clark said, referring to lazy, side-to-side passes. "You've got to cause some kind of advantage. Get downhill, even if it's not to score but to cause some guys to be out of place."

Clark played Kentucky four times when he was with Missouri and lost all four. As a sophomore he scored 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting in a 16-point loss to the Wildcats.

“I played them a lot and they dominated me,” Clark said. “I ain’t feeling too good about that, so I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder. I’ve got to go at them boys.”

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