Arizona overcomes several hurdles to defeat UConn
Sometimes you win convincingly, other times you win ugly.
Arizona found itself in the latter scenario as the Wildcats overcame 13 turnovers, 13 fouls and a slow first half to defeat the Connecticut Huskies 73-58. Thursday night’s game presented Arizona with a variety of challenges that it eventually overcame but it wasn’t easy.
“It was a tough game. There were times where we didn’t play well,” head coach Sean Miller said. “UConn had a lot to do with it… they’re that type of program that rise to the challenge in big games.”
The first half was full of cringe-worthy moments for both teams. From bad shot selection to highly-questionable foul calls, the first 20 minutes of labor had zero rhythm to it.
One of the most high-strung points of the game actually occurred during the first half when junior guard Allonzo Trier charged to the rim on a fast-break but was whistled for an offensive foul. A packed McKale crowd rained boo birds down on the referees for over a minute.
After injuring his left knee in a collision on Monday in what Miller described as a “mild bone bruise”, Trier suited up for the game against UConn, but he wasn’t at 100 percent.
Trier refrained from pushing off his left foot during pregame warmups and wore a left leg sleeve during the first half of the game. Arizona’s leading scorer managed just six points in the first half and went 0-2 from 3-point range. It wasn’t until the second half that Trier seemed more confident.
“I think it was more mental than anything,” senior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “I thought he made the plays we needed him to make down the stretch.”
Trier eventually ended the night with 15 points on 5-11 shooting and hit a 3-pointer from almost the start of the block “A” at mid-court late in the game, then followed it up with a dunk a few possessions later to give Arizona a 67-56 lead.
Arizona also had to deal with an absence of Deandre Ayton during a large portion of the first half. For the final 11:22, Deandre Ayton wasn’t on the court as the big man picked up two early fouls. With one of its best offensive weapons not at 100 percent and the other on the bench, Arizona needed someone to step up.
In stepped center Dusan Ristic who owned the game on both sides of the floor versus the Huskies.
“Tonight might have been one of his best games ever at Arizona,” Sean Miller said. “We needed him in the first half, we needed him late in the game and he delivered.”
Ristic delivered left and right for Arizona to the tune of 18 points and 10 rebounds, dominating the paint against an undersized Huskies squad.
The final non-conference game of the year was a weird one, indeed. But nonetheless, the No. 18 ranked Wildcats sit at 10-3 with a chance to knock off the No. 3 Arizona State Sun Devils in just over a week in Tucson. With the up and down roller coaster ride the last couple months, Arizona might be getting ready to hit its stride.
“We would have loved to have been 13-0 but I do think we are a lot better now than when we started and we are playing maybe our best basketball right now,” Sean Miller said.
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