Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton may one day go down in Wildcat basketball history as the best player to step on the court.
But he’s certainly en route to be that – if he’d stay more than one season. But you and I and everyone else who watches college and pro basketball know he’s here for just another few months.
Enjoy while you can.
Saturday – deep into the night – at McKale Center he had one of those games where you were glad to see him when he scored 29 points and had 18 rebounds in a 88-82 close-to-the-finish game against Alabama. It was his eighth double-double of the season.
Sean Miller said he “was the difference” between winning and losing.
“I just have a hard believing there is anybody better,” Miller said. “I don’t want to hear anything about his motor or this (and that). They are almost fabricating things that aren’t true. He’s a special, special talent. We’ve seen it in a number of situations. When the game is really on the line, he rises to the challenge. Offensively, down the stretch he made some big baskets.”
In fact, he scored seven consecutive points in the final four minutes to help Arizona outscore Alabama 12-6 in the final moments.
When I asked him which stat was more pleasing, the 29 points or 18 rebounds, he said “I am just happy that we got the win. That was a tough game.”
Tough was a good word for it.
It was physical. There were fouls galore, which meant it was physical.
And, Arizona had to face a tough 2-3 zone – and even the mention of zone should send shivers through UA players and fans, but Arizona did an admirable job. Brandon Randolph hit shots, enough for 13 points. And, of course, Allonzo Trier hit big shots, although he didn’t take many.
Once again, he worked at near maximum efficiency, hitting 4 of 6 shots and 14 of 16. When asked about the efficiency, he said he’s had better games (and yes he has) but not against this type of competition and clearly not when he had to be very selective on his shot. He’s trying to be “smart and aggressive” when he attacks.
“Just playing basketball and trying to make the right play,” Trier said. “Be aggressive when I can and (try) to put pressure on the defense. I’m drawing so much attention so when I can get the ball to my teammates and get it to Andre ain’t nobody (going to stop him) … when there is only one person between him and the basket, he’s going to score all day.”
And that’s what he seemingly did on Saturday night.
“We knew we’d have trouble with Deandre Ayton all game,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.
Be it the 17-foot jumper, the dunk or the three-footer, Ayton was tough to stop. He went 12 for 18 from the floor, and yes, he hit another 3–pointer.
“That’s the shot I shoot in practice and we work hard on it,” Ayton said of the 17 footer. “We practice that shot all the time. It was open and I decided to take it.”
His teammates have no problem with it.
“He does what he does. He’s kind of like routine for us,” Trier said. “We expect him to dominate the game and do well.”
And when he does well, Arizona is in good hands. Saturday was one of those nights.
The game also marked the return of Rawle Alkins, who had been out all season with a foot injury. He finished with seven points, two rebounds and three assists.
“It was great to have him back,” Miller said. “He gives our team a confident smile.”