Arizona defeats Alabama 88-82 behind Deandre Ayton's 29
Led by a combined 54 points from freshman Deandre Ayton and junior guard Allonzo Trier, Arizona men’s basketball beat Alabama 88-82 Saturday in Rawle Alkins season debut in the McKale Center.
The win moves the Wildcats to 7-3 on the season as the Crimson Tide falls to 7-3.
Deandre Ayton had another double-double and scored a career-high 29 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including back-to-back jump shots in the final two minutes of the game to seal the victory for Arizona. Ayton also grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead the Wildcats who out-rebounded the Crimson Tide 43-30 on the night.
“Deandre Ayton tonight was the difference,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
Miller talked about Aytons speed and athleticism and how rare it is for a big man of his size. He compared Ayton to Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett, how easily they were able to run up and down the floor.
"I coached David West when I was at Xavier, and Deandre is like a much more explosive David West, so just for a second step back and think who David West is," Miller said.
Three minutes into the first half, Miller put Rawle Alkins into his first game of the season. The crowd rose to its feet and welcomed him with a loud standing ovation. Alkins did not take a shot for his first five minutes, but had two back-to-back assists to Parker Jackson-Cartwright in the corner for three and then Dusan Ristic under the rim. With just over eight minutes left in the first half, Alkins went to the free throw line for for his first point of the season. In the second half he made a transition layup off of a blocked shot to bring the crowd to its feet again. He ended the game with seven points on 2-for-6 shooting. He was rusty according to Miller.
"It was great to have him back, as you guys know he's a fantastic kid, he gives our team a confidence and a smile almost,” Miller said. “The first game is the hardest and he will really settle in I think as we move forward.”
Allonzo Trier scored 25 points for the Wildcats to help aid the cause. Trier was faced with double-team's throughout the game, and had another quiet first half with five points. Instead of forcing offense, he let the game come to him and found a way to score in the second half. Trier shot an efficient 4-for-6 from the floor, went 3-for-4 from three and had six assists. He also made it to the free throw line 16 times where he hit 14 of his attempts.
“If you look at every single game we play now, everytime I catch it, there are guys loaded everywhere I’m at, so driving lanes are really tough.” Trier said. “I only had one shot in the first half, I only had six shots in the total game… There was a few times when I was able to hit the screen really quick and as guys were rotating over I could find Deandre, find Ira, find guys for shots, so I just have to be a little smarter.”
Both teams found themselves in foul trouble late in the game. Arizona went to the line 35 times and sent the Tide to the line 28 times. Coming into the game, Alabama was the worst free throw shooting team in the country, they shot an average 63 percent. However, the Tide flipped the script Saturday, shooting 86 percent while Arizona shot 63.
“They got to the line and delivered, you go 24-for-28 from the line, that's a big, big thing,” Miller said.
Alabama freshman point guard Collin Sexton had 30 points and was part of the reason the Wildcats found themselves in foul trouble. He went to the line 16 times and hit 15. Sexton started the game off poorly with two fouls and 2-for-6 shooting from the floor, but found a way to impact the game from the free throw line. Then, to end the first half, he hit a fadeaway 3-pointer while the shot clock expired to put Alabama up 40-38. Sexton started to find his shot in the second half and hit several contested 3-pointers. Coming into the game he averaged 20.8 points per game.
Freshman Brandon Randolph added 13 points of his own for the Wildcats. After Saturday's game, Randolph has averaged 12 points in his last five games. In the past few games Randolph has been the benefactor of double-teams thrown at Trier and Ayton. In the first minute of the game Saturday, Trier faced a double team at the top of the key and threw the ball to Randolph on the wing, who then hit the open shot. Randolph may not get to start once Alkins returns to full health, but Miller was pleased with his contribution to the team so far.
"He is becoming more and more dependable and he's improving on defense," Miller said. "Very quietly, If you look at it, Brandon had 13 points and no turnovers tonight in a big game."
Arizona has a week off before it moves on to play New Mexico in Albuquerque Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on CBSS.
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