Arizona Athletics

Rivera: Three things to take away from Arizona Wildcats’ win over USC

Zone? What zone?

Arizona finally looks comfortable against it. It did on Thursday in beating USC 90-77 at McKale Center.

Just look at the numbers against USC’s 2-3 zone. Sean Miller loved them. In fact, he reeled off Arizona’s night like he had studied them for a test.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Allonzo Trier talking about UA’s 90-77 win against USC.

Arizona hit 11 of 20 3-pointers.

It went 15 for 17 from the free-throw line.

It had 16 assists to eight turnovers.

Seven steals. And 10 second shots.

Arizona finished 32 for 63 from the field.

“Our zone attack and our team in general … we’re that team that everybody threw a zone up and I hope that teams do that now,” Miller said. “We are able to get quality threes.”

Arizona has been shooting the ball well from beyond the arc, with as many as five players who could hit threes. Add that its dribble penetration has improved and Miller feels “we have a little bit of everything against the zone. That’s a big difference in our team.”

As he said, that’s what you hope happens as the season progresses.

“That’s a prolific offensive night,” Miller said. “I think we’re really happy. At times we played some really good defense and sometimes we didn’t. You’re only going to go as far as your excellence on both ends. It can’t just be one. We have to be good on both sides. To beat UCLA that’s going to be required.”

And, of course, he told his players that as he assumed it ruined their night after what was for all intents and purposes a big night and an important Pac-12 win. UA is now 26-3 overall and 15-1 in the conference, still atop the standings.

There was a lot to like on Thursday night in UA’s win as it gets ready for its made-for-TV game with UCLA.

Here are three things that were big keys:

Trier caricature proved to be prophetic

I’ve been thinking Allonzo Trier has been sitting on a big game somewhere. Why not when his cartoon likeness is on the game’s ticket?

Allonzo Trier was the ticket on Thursday!

Last season, he’d have a big game more often than not so you know he was capable of having a breakout game. Well, it came on against USC in a subtle way. He had 25 points, 12 coming from the 3-point line, seven coming from the free-throw line and another six from the floor. When Arizona needed a basket, he found a way to get it. Did he know he’d have a game like this? Well, not exactly.

“I take every game seriously,” he said. “I take great pride in my preparation before every game. And I will treat it the same way if it’s (against USC) or Saturday against UCLA.”

Miller said he’s not surprised.

“As a coach you know your players (and) Allonzo is a really improved 3-point shooter,” Miller said. “It’s just his path this year (that was different given the PED suspension), missing 19 games. It’s taken him a little bit of time to show how improved he is, specifically from three. He did a really good job out there, especially on offense.”

For Trier that mean’s two very good games offensively in back-to-back moments. He’s gone 8 for 11 from beyond the 3-point line in the last two games.

“I’m not where I want to be but it’s not about that,” Trier said. “I’m doing what’s best for the team and however I can help impact these guys.”

Who is that kid Rawle?

Every time you see Rawle Alkins play you wonder just want can’t he do? He does it all. He’s not flashy just consistent. And that “just” is a big word because he’s not just a good player but a very good player.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright said Alkins “sparked” the team on offense and defense, making shots and making open players.

“We really fed off his energy early in the second half and ran with that,” PJC said.

Miller called Alkins “one of our cornerstones, one of our pillars.”

Sean Miller

He hasn’t missed a practice, he has missed a game, Miller pointed out.

“He doesn’t do one thing well but it’s the fact that he’s so versatile and can do so many good things,” Miller said.

For the night, Alkins had 12 points, going 5 for 5 from the floor. He also had four rebounds and four assists.

PJC for threeee

Miller was quick to point out and laud his point guard PJC, who started for the third consecutive time. He went 3 for 4 from beyond the 3-point line and is shooting with such confidence.

“He wasn’t shooting the ball well for a long time,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen a player who shoots it as consistently as he shoots it every day not translate into a game. His recent play sparks our offense.”

It was the spark that Arizona needed, making sure Saturday’s game will be one of importance and perhaps one for the ages.

“I just think I’m in a good rhythm,” PJC said. “My teammates are doing a good job of finding me. I’m just trying to step in and shoot it. I have the same preparation I had when I was missing a bunch. Now they are just falling.”

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