Jackson-Cartwright and Ayton lead Wildcats to victory in different ways versus ASU

Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Parker Jackson-Cartwright, center, tries to muscle the ball past Arizona State's Romello White (23) during the first half of the Arizona-Arizona State game on Thursday, Feb. 15 in Wells Fargo Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. Arizona beat Arizona State 77-70.

TEMPE, ARIZ.-- The Arizona men's basketball team started Thursday's matchup with ASU on fire, then guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright picked up his second foul. The next 10 minutes would be filled with a Sun Devil run until Jackson-Cartwright would return. 31-6 in fact, but his leadership was much needed to wade the waters in Wells Fargo Arena and lead No. 17 Arizona to a big road win in Tempe.

Not to be outdone, freshman Deandre Ayton displayed a different style of leadership, mostly through his athleticism and dominant play, chipping in 25 points and 16 rebounds. It was a contrast of styles for the two players, but effective in different ways to help lead the Wildcats to a win in as hostile an environment one could expect.

"He's our floor leader and he's also a senior and you know this is his fourth time in a game like this, that experience is big," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said about Jackson-Cartwright. "He handles the ball, Parker he doesn't care about scoring. So it's kind of like a throwback of how it used to be as a point guard. He really has a way of making his teammates better. You can't always judge him by the stat line."

To Miller's point, Jackson-Cartwright made his biggest point contribution in the opening minutes of the contest. In fact, it was his only points, scoring five of the first seven for Arizona. For Ayton, he did not get off to as hot a start. Ayton was loose with the ball and turned the ball over three times in the first half and only attempted five field goals.

But then the second half began.

After falling behind by seven, the Wildcats ditched the perimeter game and opted for a heavy dose of seven-footer by way of Ayton and senior Dusan Ristic. ASU had no answer for the combo, particularly Ayton who dominated on the boards and provided countless opportunities for Arizona, turning an eight point egg into a 25-point barrage in the paint.

Arizona's Deandre Ayton throws off an Arizona State defender to score during the Arizona-Arizona State game on Thursday, Feb. 15 in Wells Fargo Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.

"Deandre is certainly a player I haven't seen a whole lot in my lifetime," Miller said. "He was a dominant, dominant player, and really a lot of other guys played well, but he was the difference."

Ayton's efforts helped Arizona smother a smaller, undersized Sun Devil team that simply had no answer. The Wildcats out-rebounded ASU 44-28 after tying with 15 a piece in the first half. 

However, the turning point of the game was a cap to a 7-0 run that ultimately change the flow towards Arizona. Jackson-Cartwright penetrated the lane and jumped into the air with two Sun Devil defenders aiming to block his shot. At the peak of his jump, he wrapped the ball around both defenders to Ayton who threw down a dunk and led to a timeout by ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. The poise of Arizona down the stretch, combined with the power of a young phenom helped overcome the runs ASU tried to make. It also gave a glimpse as to what the Wildcats will need moving forward.

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