Rawle Alkins was struggling as Arizona men's basketball dragged through their Pac-12 Championship game against USC Saturday in T-Mobile Arena. But in a game that was relatively slow, Alkins provided the biggest of all plays, an iconic dunk in which he reared back and shattered the hopes of the Trojans by slamming both the ball and defender Elijah Stewart to the ground.
It was a momentum changer, a tournament clincher and a legend maker. Once up by just three, Arizona suddenly seemed like it was up 25. Whatever happens to Alkins from this point forward, people will always mention the dunk in the same breath.
For USC, the wheels started to come off and in a hurry. Alkins had in effect taken their mojo, and the ensuing nine minutes left in play would see them get outscored 24-15 as the Pac-12 title slipped through their fingers. Arizona had gone next-level.
The result helped Arizona to a 75-61win and secure their second consecutive Pac-12 Tournament Championship.
"Guys are saying that's the dunk of the year," Alkins said. "...I like to label myself as 'sneaky bounce'. Deandre [Ayton] gave me a great pass and I just thought to myself 'finish strong'.
Teammate Allonzo Trier had a different view and a very succinct way of putting the dunk.
"He smashed it on his ass," Trier said.
Point blank, in the unspoken rules of basketball, getting dunked on is at the top of the list of things you would rather not happen against you. Alkins dunk was so vicious that he had to step over Stewart as he lied on the floor and saw his soul leave his body. Nobody deserves to be dunked on that bad, nobody.
The dunk itself set off a series of highlights in the coming minutes, separating the Wildcats from the Trojans. Deandre Ayton would catch an alley-oop from Allonzo Trier and then throw another dunk down shortly after. Each slam inching the Wildcat faithful closer to the court in excitement. The sounds following each were deafening, as the near 95 percent filled arena was occupied by Arizona fans cheering crazily for their team.
Several weeks ago, while Alkins was in the midst of a slump he responded to a question concerning his health. An apparent wonder about whether his ailing foot had taken some of his explosive ability away, particularly towards the rim.
"You know what, I remember a few weeks ago you was asking me, "Is your legs hurt?", I remembered that," Alkins said. "I think it was a momentum changer."
The Houston Cougars in the early 1980's had a series of high-flyers who were labeled Phi Slamma Jamma. Featuring Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, this group was a rim rattling team that put on a show every time they set foot on the court. Saturday night was as good a modern replica as there ever has been, compliments of Alkins and Ayton, or maybe we should harken back to another 80's classic--the "A' team.
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