The Rundown: On Ayton's historic performance, defense on the rise and playing for Miller
LAS VEGAS -- Here's the rundown on a few of the biggest topics from Arizona's 75-61 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Ayton’s historic performance:
To say Deandre Ayton owned the Pac-12 Tournament would be putting it lightly. The Bahamian phenom scored 74 points and snagged 38 rebounds over a three-game stretch, including back-to-back 30-point efforts. It came to the surprise of nobody that Ayton won the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player. In doing so, he became the first player in Pac-12 history to be named conference Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
With another double-double, Ayton also now owns the Arizona single-season school record with 23 and ties the Pac-12 record as well. Quite the set of accomplishments for a 19-year-old.
Defensive on the rise:
Arizona’s defense had its best three-game stretch all year the Pac-12 Tournament it can even stretch back to the final homestand. Over their last five games, the Wildcat’s defense has given up only 63.2 points per game after allowing an average of 72.55 points per game all season. The 10-point swing is evidenced by the team’s larger focus paid towards effort and covering the 3-point line better.
“I think that’s the reason why we won,” senior Dusan Ristic said, referencing the tough defense. “We held them (USC) to only 61 points. Yesterday we played UCLA in the overtime, and they only scored 67.”
UA’s defensive rating also improved more than 20 spots in KenPom.com efficiency over the course of the tournament.
This one’s for Sean:
With all the scrutiny Sean Miller has had to deal with this year, Arizona players were in agreement that their performance had a little extra to it.
“We did it together. He’s believed in me since day one since he brought me here, and I owe him a lot,” Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “I just wanted to play hard for him and we got it done for him.”
“It means a lot. I can tell he’s happy,” Rawle Alkins said. “Having your coach go through a lot off the court and to be where we are now I think is a great feeling. Everyone’s happy.”
Bracket time next
Arizona will find out its NCAA Tournament seed on Sunday and after this weekend, the Wildcats are in good position to earn a favorable seed, probably in the West region. The Selection Show will take place at 3 p.m. on March 11.