Offense comes from a variety of sources in big win
PHOENIX -- If you told Arizona Men’s basketball fans that Dusan Ristic, Dylan Smith and Brandon Randolph would each have 13 points against the No. 4 defense in college basketball, they would probably assume the Wildcats won the game. And they would be right, as the Wildcats beat the seventh ranked Texas A&M Aggies 67-64 Tuesday behind strong performances from its role players.
Texas A&M did everything it could to keep Arizona’s star duo Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton from scoring. The plan worked for the most part, as Trier did not score in the first half and ultimately finished with seven points. But instead of stopping the Wildcats, it became an opportunity for other players to make an impact on the game.
“Guys stepped up, like Dylan Smith he stepped up and made big shots, Brandon Randolph at the free throw line made big shots and big decisions.” Ayton said.
When Trier got the ball at the top of the key, he was immediately met with a double team. Similarly, the Aggies tried loading up on Ayton to keep him from even getting the ball, and when he did, the team swarmed him, forcing him to take a tough shot or pass the ball.
“You have to realize they are working their entire possession to keep him from getting the ball,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “They are double teaming and triple teaming and crowding him, and that opens things up for his teammates.”
While the defense was busy covering Ayton, who still had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Smith found himself getting good looks from three, where he shot a perfect 3-for-3. Randolph also took advantage of the widened lanes and made his mark inside the paint by hitting jump shots and driving to the basket. But more significantly, within the last 29 seconds of the game he hit 4-of-6 free throws to seal the game for the Wildcats.
“On different nights over the long course of the season, it's not always going to be Deandre had 25 and Allonzo had 24, balance is going to seep in.” Miller said.
Although Ristic started, Miller put the senior center on the floor when Ayton was on the bench and did not play the two big men together as much as he has in previous games. Ristic took advantage of the situation by getting his points around the rim with efficient 5-for-7 shooting. Texas A&M fans may have flashbacks to last season when Ristic scored 18 points as the Wildcats beat the Aggies 67-63 in Houston.
Overall, the Wildcats shot the ball 43 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three, both percentages lower than the Aggies, who shot 46 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three. The difference came in free throw shooting, as the Wildcats had 20 made free throws compared to seven for TAMU.
Arizona’s senior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright handled the ball well and kept the Wildcats calm and composed. He finished the game with seven points, three assists and one turnover on 35 minutes of play. He also hit a 3-pointer when the game was tied, with just under two minutes to go, that put the Wildcats up for good.
Both teams turned the ball over 11 times during the game, but Miller said he felt the Wildcats did a good job taking care of the ball, especially in the second half.
“We had three turnovers in the second half, I would say that was maybe the biggest reason we won,” Miller said.
Arizona’s offense scored 67 points. Significantly less than the 80 through 100 point games they have had at the McKale Center this season. The offense looked less rushed and more poised, much more like a Miller coached offense usually looks, one where defense comes first.
The Wildcats will face Alabama on Saturday in the McKale Center at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
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