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5 Takeaways from Arizona’s 89-73 win over New Mexico

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Deandre Ayton hypes up the crowd as the clock winds down against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Arizona men’s basketball won its fifth game in a row, this time a 89-73 win against New Mexico at the Pit on Saturday night behind a career high 26 points from Rawle Alkins in his first start of the 2017 season. His performance stood out as part of the five biggest takeaways from the victory.

1. Alkins makes Arizona a more complete team.

The return of Alkins to the starting lineup was felt immediately as the sophomore guard hit a 3-pointer on Arizona’s first possession of the game and he didn’t look back. Alkins finished the night hitting 9-11 shots including a perfect 3-3 behind the arc and 5-5 from the free throw line in 31 minutes of action. 

Last week head coach Sean Miller noted how Alkins would help make Arizona a better team and it was easy to see why against the Lobos. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native’s presence seemed to give the Wildcats a greater sense of confidence and allowed Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton more room to operate. Alkins finished with the best plus/minus stat for UA with +20. 



2. Ayton is near impossible to guard in the post.

There was a point in the first half where Deandre Ayton had the ball and was double-teamed down low but the 7-1 forward side stepped around both defenders by the baseline and finished at the rim with a slam dunk. It’s plays like this that make Ayton one of the most unguardable players in all of college basketball. The defense from the Lobos was solid but Ayton somehow evaded the double-team. 

The freshman sensation finished the night with 14 points and 13 rebounds for another double-double, including some highlight reel dunks. He had a quiet second half offensively though, only scoring four points but he did snag nine rebounds and blocked a shot. 



3. Brandon Randolph should get more minutes than Dylan Smith.

With Rawle Alkins back in the starting lineup, guards Brandon Randolph and Dylan Smith will be regulated to coming off the bench. Against New Mexico, Smith played 18 minutes as opposed to 14 from Randolph, but Randolph had the better performance. 

Smith perhaps offers a better defensive option for Sean Miller but he continues to have head-scratching moments game after game. This time, Smith had a play in the first half where he fell asleep on defense and gave up an easy layup and then in the second half let a fast-break pass go right past his fingers for a turnover. 

Randolph has been a strong scoring option for the Wildcats the last few weeks and Miller said that he trusts him to make a shot almost the same as Trier. The freshman scored seven points on 2-4 shooting versus the Lobos but scored 13 points against Alabama and 13 against Texas A&M. 

4. The defense was better but still has flaws.

Arizona’s defense has been a work in progress all season but it had some better moments on Saturday. New Mexico shot just 39% from the field on the night and the Wildcats had 29 defensive rebounds compared to just 15 from the Lobos.

However, there were still plenty of times where Arizona failed to rotate or cover its man on the perimeter leaving New Mexico with wide open shots. New Mexico forward Duane Kuiper burned UA with six 3-pointers and the Lobos made 12 total. 

5. The toughest part of the non-conference is over. 

After the struggles in the Bahamas, it appeared that Arizona was headed for a few more non-conference losses. That was not the case though as the Wildcats rattled off wins over quality opponents including a win over then-No. 7 Texas A&M. 

UA will play North Dakota State and UConn at home before Pac-12 play. Both games should end in an Arizona victory. 


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