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Notebook: On strong finish, lineup adjustments and Ayton & McCoy

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Ira Lee disagrees with a call made by an official during the UA-LBSU game.

Arizona men’s basketball capped off a comeback win in Vegas with last minute heroics from freshman Deandre Ayton and junior Allonzo Trier to outlast the UNLV Rebels 91-88 in OT. 

The Wildcats trailed for most of the first and second half but eventually found their way to win their second game in a row after an 0-3 performance in the Bahamas.

Here are other noteworthy takeaways from Arizona’s victory:

Slow start, strong finish:

Initially it appeared as if the Wildcats were on their way to losing a fourth game in five tries after a sluggish first half. Arizona’s transition defense was in slow motion allowing UNLV to get easy baskets at the rim and UA’s offense only hit 14-40 shots and just 1-11 on 3-point attempts.

But Arizona eventually found its way in the second half, force feeding Deandre Ayton in the low post, who scored ten points in the final 20 minutes of regulation, and forcing turnovers on defense. UA’s offensive efficiency improved drastically in the second half and into overtime, scoring 1.33 points per possession, compared to just .769 in the first half. 

The Wildcats trailed by 10 points at 12:52 in the second half but multiple runs brought it close and each team exchanged blows, one after another, on their way to overtime where Arizona would eventually sneak out a win. 

Big men rotation:

One of the changes head coach Sean Miller entertained in the Bahamas was going to a zone defense when 7-footers Dusan Ristic and Deandre Ayton shared the floor. However, he used another technique tonight and that involved removing Ristic from the equation, especially in the second half. 

Senior Keanu Pinder and freshman Ira Lee saw the floor for the majority of the late stages of the game as Pinder played for six minutes and Lee played for 11 minutes in the second half, while Ristic saw just six minutes after playing 11 in the first half. 

Pinder and Lee didn’t light up the stat sheet but both were instrumental in preventing Arizona’s defense from falling apart in the paint. 

Ayton and McCoy:

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy are heralded as two of the best big men in college basketball and tonight they showed why, combining for 61 points. McCoy was an Arizona recruiting target last year before committing to the Rebels. 

McCoy, a 7-foot, 250 pound freshman, played with Ayton for a short stint on the California Supreme travel ball club in high school and then both were on the McDonald’s All-American West team in the Spring.

Against each other in college, Ayton posted a double-double with a career high 28 points, while McCoy countered with 33 points on an efficient 13-17 shooting. The two big men traded baskets time after time in the second half and in OT. 

Valley of the Sun

Arizona will face its toughest test of the young season with a neutral site game on Tuesday in Phoenix versus No. 9 Texas A&M at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2. 


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