LAS VEGAS -- Arizona men’s basketball beat the Colorado Buffaloes and advanced to the Pac-12 tournament semifinal on Thursday. Here are six takeaways from the game.
The last time Arizona played Colorado somewhere other than McKale, the Buffs came out victorious. After that game in early January, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said he could not get his guys to play with effort on defense.
That became a recurring theme for much of the season, with Miller even going as far as to say that this year's team may be the worst defensive team he has coached at Arizona.
Thursday's game against Colorado had Miller singing a very different tune.
“I thought our ball screen defense was good,” Miller said. “Our team defense was good. We had a lot of players working together. I didn’t really look at them having a lot of great looks that they missed. I think our defense was intact.”
Arizona and Colorado were neck and neck for the first 27 minutes of the game until Wright went down with a twisted ankle. Without Colorado’s starting point guard, the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run and never looked back.
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said losing Wright certainly contributed to the loss but Colorado’s defense was to blame as well.
“McKinley goes out, it might take us a while to figure things out offensively, but we weren’t getting any stops,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “They went on that run, and it was kind of all she wrote.”
Wright returned to the sideline late in the game with his ankle taped up. Boyle said he considered bringing Wright back into the game but decided against it.
“McKinley’s a warrior,” Boyle said. “I thought, if we could have gotten that thing within striking distance, I probably would have gone with him, but I certainly didn’t want to risk him or his ankle for the sake of just putting him back in the game.”
Trier scored a total of two points in Arizona’s final three games of the season. Trier dealt with re-suspension from the NCAA for performance enhancing drugs that kept him out both games in Oregon. When he returned for senior day against Cal, he couldn't seem to find the bottom of the net, shooting 1-for-10 and finishing with two points.
Against Colorado, Trier looked much more like himself. He scored 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting and went to the line 10 times, making all 10 shots.
He said he never lost confidence.
“You saw what I did today,” Trier said. “Watch what I do the rest of the season, too."
The seven-footer did not have a typical 'Deandre Ayton' performance. Arizona's talented freshman, and Pac-12 player of the year, shot an unusual 4-of-14 and finished with 10 points and six rebounds. However, other players stepped up, and Arizona won comfortably.
Other players stepping up is a good sign for Arizona fans, since Arizona's bench has been lackluster for most of the season.
Having another talented seven-footer on the team doesn’t hurt either.
While Ayton was dealing with his shooting woes, Ristic found a rhythm. The big man from Serbia had four points in the first half, but added 12 in the second half. Throughout the game Ristic was fired up, he played hard and with emotion.
At one point he had to be separated from a Colorado player after the player tripped Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
“He’s been playing with an amazing chip on his shoulder,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He’s been taking it to dudes all year.”
Former Arizona Wildcat and NFL super bowl MVP Nick Foles sat courtside during the game. Afterward he spent about an hour wandering the arena taking pictures with fans and watching the UCLA-Stanford game.
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