BOISE, Idaho -- Arizona lost more than just a basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night. After the No. 4 seed Wildcats' 89-68 loss to 13-seed Buffalo, 7-foot freshman center Deandre Ayton and junior guard Allonzo Trier officially declared for the NBA draft.
"I learned a lot and built relationships on this team," Ayton said. "This is the only team that I actually loved. Being a Wildcat is amazing.
"I think it's the right thing to do, right now. I think I'm ready for the NBA. ... I just have to finish off school right and just work this summer and play for the draft."
Ayton, who is projected to be the first pick in this year's draft, finished his Arizona career with 14 points and 13 rebounds against the Bulls for his 24th double-double of the season and third in a row.
Trier scored only 10 points Thursday, connecting on 4 of 15 shots and going 0-for-5 on 3-pointers.
"I'm not worried about [jumping to the NBA] right now, but I'm closing the book on this chapter and looking forward to the next one in my life," Trier said. "It's a pleasure to be coached by [Sean Miller] and be a part of him and this program for three years."
Ayton said he made his decision to turn pro with his family during the summer after his senior year of high school. Trier said he and Miller talked about him leaving school after the 2016-17 season, then he decided to come back to Arizona for his junior year.
The departures of Ayton and Trier mean that the Wildcats will begin the 2018-19 season without their top five scorers from this season. They also currently have no commitments in their 2018 recruiting class.
Ayton's and Trier's 2017-18 seasons with the Wildcats didn't come without distractions. Trier missed two games this season after testing positive for a banned substance. Trier also missed the first 19 games of the 2016-17 season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
After taking an NCAA student-athlete drug screening in late January, Trier's results "revealed the reappearance of a trace amount of a banned substance."
Trier said that he never "knowingly" took the banned substance.
In February, ESPN reported that FBI wiretaps intercepted phone conversations between Miller and Christian Dawkins, an employee for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller. According to sources familiar with the government's evidence, Miller and Dawkins discussed paying $100,000 to ensure Ayton would sign with the Wildcats.
Attorney Lynden B. Rose, who represents the Ayton family, denied the allegations and urged the FBI to clear Ayton's name. Miller also denied ESPN's report about the alleged pay-to-play conversation.
Thursday night's loss ended a tumultuous season for Arizona, which was the preseason No. 2 team in the country. The Wildcats, equipped with arguably the most talented team Miller has had in Tucson, first dealt with adversity before the season, when assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was named in September in an FBI corruption and bribery scandal that rocked college basketball. Richardson was later arrested and charged with accepting a bribe to steer players toward agents and financial advisers. He was accused of accepting $20,000 in bribes and paying a recruit to sign with the Wildcats.
Richardson was formally fired by Arizona on Jan. 11.
The team suffered three straight losses early in the season, including an 89-64 defeat to Purdue in the Bahamas. Arizona later lost 80-77 on the road to a Colorado team that ended the season with 15 losses. And the Wildcats flirted with losing the outright Pac-12 regular-season championship after a 98-93 overtime defeat at Oregon in late February.
A game later, however, Arizona clinched the conference with a win over Stanford, and the team found its footing by cruising through the Pac-12 tourney and winning its second straight tournament championship.
But after gaining much-needed postseason momentum and seemingly putting the off-court distractions behind them, the Wildcats fell flat against a Buffalo team that was a 9.5-point underdog and had a significantly smaller and less talented lineup.
"It's a disappointing time for us," Miller said. "We didn't expect to lose this tournament. And the last four years, like, doesn't feel good right now. It's frustrating."
Buffalo outscored Arizona 45-6 from beyond the arc, making 15 of 30 3-pointers as the Wildcats hit just 2 of 18 3s. Though the Wildcats outscored the Bulls 42-30 in the paint, Buffalo outrebounded Arizona 32-31.
The Wildcats couldn't consistently get Ayton going offensively. The Bulls made sure they were able to get guards behind and underneath Ayton as much as possible, causing Arizona's guards to be hesitant passing to their big man.
"From the jump, those guys were on us," Ayton said. "Their guard play on the defensive end was crazy; they attack you all the way. It's like they're going downhill on ball screens. It's just like they had a chip on their shoulder the whole game, and they really took advantage of us on the offensive end and the defensive end."
Ayton also said that Buffalo was a more physical team than he expected.
"I don't think we were tired; we just weren't playing hard at all," he said. "After those guys threw the first punch to us, it was curtains after that. Their guards really set the tone, and their energy spread.
"We got beat by all types of different ways."
It was a long season for Arizona, but Trier didn't blame Thursday's loss on the distractions surrounding the Wildcats, and he commended a Buffalo team that he felt was better on this night.
"It ain't no time to be making excuses for ourselves," Trier said. "When you step on that basketball court, you're supposed to perform. Outside noise and that stuff, you can't let that get to you. We played against a Buffalo team that was better than us tonight and kicked our ass -- simple as that."
Now the Wildcats are left wondering what could have been with all this talent and what will be going forward.
Ayton, Trier, seniors Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic and sophomore Rawle Alkins will all be gone, leaving this team to start over from scratch. Trier said he trusts the less experienced returning players and believes that Miller will recruit high-quality prospects to fill in the gaping holes that have now emerged for the 2018-19 season.
"I have no doubt we'll have some other guys that want to play for Arizona and Sean Miller, and I'm sure he'll keep this program afloat," Trier said.
Still, Thursday's loss was a lost opportunity for Arizona, and regardless of what could happen, this defeat is especially painful with the high-powered talent attached to it.
"It's very disappointing," Ayton said. "We had big expectations to go far in the tournament and, unfortunately, we didn't.
"Going down like this really hurt. We thought we had this game, and we really wanted to make history for the Wildcats and, unfortunately, we didn't. This hurts. To be honest, it hurts."