LAS VEGAS-- Once again Deandre Ayton carried Arizona men’s basketball, this time it was to a Pac-12 tournament championship as the Wildcats beat USC 75-61 Saturday in the T-mobile arena.
Arizona and USC were locked in a back and forth struggle for most of the game. That would be up until one point midway through the second half, when Deandre Ayton passed the ball to Rawle Alkins as he cut inside and Alkins rose up and threw down a two handed dunk over USC guard Elijah Stewart.
Then, on the following possession, Allonzo Trier tossed the ball up for Deandre Ayton who brought down another two handed dunk. The crowd exploded and Arizona used the momentum to jump to a double digit lead.
"When they start throwing lobs over the top and hitting transition threes, with any team in the country it's hard to stop. The crowd gets into it, it's basically like being in Tucson again, the whole arena was filled with UA fans so they got loud." USC guard Jonah Mathews said. "They got two dunks and a three and they were up seven within seconds. When that happens it's hard to come back from, but we fought to the end."
Similar to Arizona’s game against UCLA, the arena was just over three quarters of the way full, but this time at least 95 percent of the crowd wore Arizona red and blue.
For most of the game, everyone on Arizona’s team not named Ayton struggled to hit shots. Fortunately for Arizona, the seven-footer was able to beat the Trojans under he basket. Not once, not twice, but again and again all game long.
Ayton led scoring with a 30 point and 18 rebound double-double for Arizona. The big man shot 14-for-20 from the floor and threw down a number of alley-oop dunks.
Ayton’s double-double came as his 23rd of the season, tying him with Kevin Love for the most in Pac-12 history.
Nick Rakocevic led USC with 13 points, while Jordan McLaughlin followed him with 12 points.
Dusan Ristic played alongside Ayton for most of the game and added 16 points and five rebounds on 8-for-13 shooting.
In the first half, Arizona struggled to handle the ball. The Wildcats gave the ball up five times in the first seven minutes of the game and ended the half with nine total.
In the second half, Arizona turned the ball over only five times, while USC only had -- turnovers throughout the game.
Rebounds are what kept the Wildcats in the game and gave them the win during the first half and through the game. Arizona out rebounded USC 42-19 and 13-5 on the offensive glass.
Arizona now waits for the selection committee to release the NCAA bracket seeding on Sunday.
This story will be updated. Follow Nate Airulla on Twitter for all things Arizona basketball.