Welcome back, Rawle Alkins … talk about “Savage Life.”
He was unstoppable, showing how valuable he truly is to the No. 23 Arizona Wildcats even if it was against New Mexico, an 89-73 loser to UA on Saturday night in Albuquerque.
Let me first say this: New Mexico isn’t all that good and we all know that, but playing in “The Pit” is no easy task… under any circumstances.
What a game Alkins had in the win, now Arizona’s fifth consecutive as it hopes to continue to climb back high in the polls. UA is 8-3 overall.
Alkins was all but perfect, hitting 9 of 11 shots good enough for a career-high 26 points. He went 3 for 3 from beyond the 3-point line and went 5 for 5 from the free throw line.
“Do you think we are a better team with him?” Arizona coach Sean Miller joked on his post-game radio show. “If we didn’t have him I don’t know what the score would have been. It wouldn’t have been, I’ll tell you that. He was the best player on the court for big stretches.”
And then the others feed off of him. On Saturday night, Arizona played its best game to date – although its win against Alabama was very good. Still, Arizona shot a season-high 64 percent, having it hover in the 70s for most of the game.
It hit 9 of 13 3s and dominated in the paint, outscoring UNM 42-20 in the area. Arizona can thank Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic for that. Ayton, despite being double teamed most of the night, scored 14 points many coming on alley-oop put ins. And, well, of course his signature dunks. Dusan had a solid night, scoring eight points and having nine rebounds.
Before Miller got off his radio show, he made it a point to highlight Ristic.
“I thought he did a really good job defensively, being in the right position,” Miller said. “He played with a whole lot of poise. It was great to get 25 minutes from him. You have to account for Dusan on offense because he’s such a high-percentage shooter. And he played the game with only one turnover. He was a big reason why we won as well.”
Everything seemingly worked – more so in the first half than the second. UA held a 49-33 lead at the half and was well on its way to a big win. It shot 71 percent from the floor and looked energized and complete with Alkins playing like he did. Everyone fed off of it.
Arizona came back to earth in the second half, hitting 57 percent and New Mexico playing even. But, the damage – behind the Savage Life – has Arizona at 8-3 overall.
“We’re a much better team with Rawle,” Miller said. “We’re not going to hit on all cylinders in only the second game that he’s played. He hasn’t practiced more than a week. Everything from how we sub and how things work with everyone getting used to each other – my hope is that we can continue to do things better and improve.”