Deandre Ayton won’t mistake McKale Center for being anything like his native Bahamas, but for a night and some key moments it felt like “paradise.”
Dunks and short jumpers were the norm for Ayton who had 25 points and nine rebounds in Arizona’s 83-53 win over North Dakota State on Monday night.
He had six dunks and five short jumpers, the longest being just past the free throw line.
That’s what it felt like when North Dakota State decided to defend the 7-foot-1 center/forward/force with only one defender.
“I usually don’t see the one defender that’s on me,” he said. “I look at the help defender, but I see paradise.”
Again, for Arizona it must have felt that way after the first 10 minutes and until the final 10 when junior leader Allonzo Trier went down with an apparent knee injury.
“We think he’s doing well,” said teammate Rawle Alkins, “… but time will tell …. Hopefully, he’ll be OK.”
Miller came into the press conference minutes later to say he wasn’t sure what the injury is but more will be known on Tuesday. He wouldn’t’ speculate how long Trier could be out.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Miller said. “You really don’t know about those things until you let a night go by.
“… we think he suffered some sort of a bone bruise. It’s scary for a player when that happens because it doesn’t feel right. We’re hoping for some good news. It seems to be positive but we will know more tomorrow.”
As for Monday night, Arizona looked like a team that should be ranked No. 18 – or better – but that’s where it is after winning its six consecutive games. UA moved up five spots after beating New Mexico on Saturday.
Against the Bison, Miller said every player who played had a positive impact. And he went deep into the lineup where even Emmanuel Akot played 10 minutes after missing the previous two games. Alex Barcello, out last game with an ankle injury, played 10 minutes.
Miller said his offense was consistent, after starting the game with two quick turnovers. It finished with five. And the defense was good.
“I liked the way we executed; it wasn’t just two players either,” Miller said. “We executed as a group. We took a step forward.”
And right now, that’s all a coach can ask for. As for being told Ayton called it “paradise” when he’s defended by a single person, Miller smiled and said, “he has to get the ball and for him to get the ball we have to throw it to him.”
Translation: Paradise will be visited often if Ayton continues to get defended like that and he continues to play like he has.