Ayton dominates despite distractions
The distractions of the current FBI investigation within college basketball didn't appear to bother Arizona men's basketball freshman Deandre Ayton on Saturday as the Wildcats took on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. In fact, it seemed to awaken a beast during Arizona's 98-93 loss in Phil Knight Arena.
From the get-go, Ayton set the tone, though it wasn't enough to get the win. The 19-year-old freshman dropped a double-double in the first half alone with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He appeared to play with more intensity than at any other point this season.
This all comes on the heels of an ESPN report that stated head coach Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap asking for $100,000 to pay Ayton in 2017 his commitment to the Wildcats in 2016. After news of the findings broke, a lawyer for Ayton's parents issued a statement denying any wrongdoing by Ayton and that the reports about his receiving the money were outrageous and disgusting.
Unfortunately for Arizona, it wasn't able to get Ayton the ball in the second half as much as in the first. For over 10 minutes Ayton did not attempt a shot and didn't make the shot in the last 15:51, the impending result led to Oregon jumping to take control of the game and ultimately the win.
Ayton finished with 28 points and 18 rebounds, despite being under-utilized for a majority of the second half.
"He's getting through it," assistant head coach Lorenzo Romar said on ESPN about Ayton getting through the distractions of the last 24 hours. "I think if you look at his play tonight it seemed like he handled it pretty well."
Romar credited Ayton's mom specifically for encouraging him and motivating him to keep his focus where he needs it. He also mentioned her ability to motivate Ayton as a key influence to keep him mind in current events.
The Wildcats will finish their Pac-12 season at home against Cal and Stanford as they look to secure the conference regular season title with a sweep of the two schools.
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