Arizona beats Stanford 75-67 as Sean Miller and Allonzo Trier return
After finding out that head coach Sean Miller was returning to the team and Allonzo Trier was cleared to play a few hours later, Arizona men’s basketball clinched a share of the Pac-12 championship Thursday with a 75-67 win over Stanford in the McKale Center.
Arizona now holds at least a share of the Pac-12 conference championship and has a chance to win it outright when it hosts Cal Saturday. The win improved the Wildcats to 23-7 and 13-4 in the Pac-12.
"For us to clench at least a tie is very gratifying," Miller said. "We are playing for a outright championship on Saturday which we are all very excited about."
Arizona’s head coach was on the floor once again after missing the Wildcats last game against Oregon when ESPN reported that the FBI had a wiretap of him discussing paying $100,000 to help recruit freshman Deandre Ayton.
Miller held a press conference before the game, and with the University’s support, denied the reports and returned to coaching the team.
Before the game, Miller walked onto the court to a standing ovation and chants of “We want Miller.” Then when Miller said the line, "This is.. Arizona" in the pregame video, the building erupted.
"To see them do that, it was very emotional," Miller said. "It was something that I'll never forget."
Then, a few minutes later, when the announcer introduced Trier, the crowd roared again.
Trier was suspended by the NCAA on Feb. 22 when he tested positive for the same performance enhancing drug that forced him to miss 19 games last season. The suspension forced Trier to miss both games against the Oregon schools last week. The NCAA rescinded Trier's suspension when Arizona appealed it on the basis that the drug was left over in his system from last year.
Cleared to play again, Trier wasted no time getting back into a rhythm and hit a 3-pointer on Arizona's second possession. He finished the game with 18 points and four assists on 4-for-10 shooting.
However, Dusan Ristic led scoring for Arizona with 21 points and five rebounds. The game came as Ristic’s 111th victory at Arizona, the most in Arizona history.
"It means a lot," Ristic said. "It's a result of hard work, and it's a result of the culture of this program of older players that I played with from my freshman year through this year. I'm privileged to accomplish something and it's proven it's something that's going to stay forever in my life."
With the team back to full capacity, Arizona started strong and played with high energy on offense, but at first Arizona’s defense looked similar to the defense that let Oregon score 98 points last week.
For the first 13 minutes of the game, Arizona let Stanford have what it wanted on offense. However, Arizona tightened its defense with less than seven minutes left in the first half and rattled off a 7-0 run that put the Wildcats out of reach for good.
Arizona held close to a double-digit lead until just over four minutes left in the game when Stanford brought the game within five. Arizona responded with strong defense and only let the Cardinal score two points for the rest of the game.
For Stanford, Reid Travis led the game with a 23 point, 10 rebound double-double. He was the only player for the Cardinal that Arizona had trouble guarding throughout the game.
Deandre Ayton also finished the game with a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double. He had a unusually quiet first half with only two points and two rebounds, but looked more like himself in the second half. Overall, he only took six shots, hitting four of them.
As a team Arizona shot 53 percent from the floor and 4-for-13 from 3-point range while holding Stanford to 41 percent from the floor and 5-of-14 from three.
Despite the strong win, turnovers were the biggest enemy for the Wildcats. Arizona gave up eight turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 15 total, while Stanford only gave up eight total.
Arizona moves on to play Cal in the McKale Center Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.
Follow Nate Airulla on Twitter.