Arizona beats UConn 73-58 behind big night from Alkins, Ristic
Led by 20 points from Rawle Alkins and an 18 point double-double from Dusan Ristic, Arizona Men’s basketball beat the University of Connecticut Huskies 73-58 Thursday to pick up its seventh win in a row and close the non-conference season in the Mckale Center.
The win marks the first time an Arizona team has beaten a UConn team in six tries and gave Arizona a 10-3 record to end the non-conference season, while the Huskies fell to 7-4.
The game was close late in the second half until Ristic rebounded the ball off a miss and threw it to Parker Jackson-Cartwright at the top of the key for a game-changing 3-pointer. Arizona then opened the game up with a 8-0 run while holding UCONN to 1-for-7 in the last five minutes.
Ristic stepped up for the Wildcats when Deandre Ayton got into foul trouble and had to sit in the first half. Ristic had 10 points at halftime and finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“We have a deep team and somebody had to step up,” Ristic said. “That was me. I was the guy tonight.”
However Ristic wasn't the only guy for Arizona Thursday night. Throughout the game, every time UCONN started to gain momentum, Alkins had an answer. Alkins hit three 3-pointers in the second half and attacked the basket inside, sending him to the line for five points. Alkins shot 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-5 from deep.
“He didn’t have any turnovers, that’s a big deal,” head coach Sean Miller said. “When he is that aggressive and not turning the ball over, he's going to get fouled and he's going to find his teammates. He really took what the defense gave tonight.”
Allonzo Trier also had 15 points as well as a deep 3-pointer with just over three minutes to go in the game. Trier played 35 minutes after suffering a bone bruise in his left knee during Arizona’s last game against North Dakota State University, where he collided knees with guard Paul Miller and had to be helped off the court. In the first half Trier played with a compression sleeve on his leg but took it off for the second half.
“He wasn’t at 100 percent, but he wasn't at any sort of risk, he doesn't have a tear or anything going on with his knee,” Miller said. “He suffered a knee sprain and a significant bruise.. the fact that he was able to play is a testament to him. His defense down the stretch was a big reason we won.”
Both teams struggled to take care of the ball in the first half as Arizona turned it over eight times to UConn's 11. In the second half Arizona took better care of the ball, but ended the game with 13 turnovers, while UConn had 18.
Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton finished with nine points and seven rebounds as well as led the game with five assists. Ayton banked a 3-pointer off the glass to give him three points in the first half, but had two fouls early on and Miller was forced to sit him for most of the half.
In the second half, UConn did everything it could to keep him from getting the ball, and when he did, they immediately threw a double or triple-team at him. Ayton used his height and passing ability to find open players when he drew the defense.
“His passing is very understated, he had five assists,” Miller said. “It's hard to double-team him, Dusan benefits from that, and all of our program and players benefit from that. They threw everybody at him.. that was their game plan, they wanted somebody else to beat them, and other guys did beat them.”
Arizona shot 50 percent overall and 47 percent from three while holding UCONN to 41 percent and 38 percent from deep. Arizona's point guard Jackson-Cartwright said Arizona is finally starting to see all the time they put in at the gym payoff.
Although it may have had something to do with Ayton spending most of the first half on the bench with his two fouls, Arizona lost the rebounding battle 33-29 as well as 10-5 on the offensive glass. Miller said rebounding is something the team needs to work on and he believes they can be a much better rebounding team, especially on the offensive end.
For UConn, junior redshirt forward Terry Larrier led with 18 points. Larrier shot 7-for-15 and grabbed three boards.
At first, the game started slowly for both teams. Trier took two 3-pointers in Arizona’s first two possessions and missed both of them. Neither team scored in the first two and a half minutes until Alkins broke the spell with a 15-foot jumper.
Before Thursday's win, Arizona had lost all five of its previous matchups with the Huskies. The last came in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 when UConn denied Arizona a trip to the Final Four.
Arizona moves on to open PAC-12 play by hosting in-state rival and third ranked ASU on December 30, at 7:00 p.m. in the Mckale Center.
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