Oh, where to begin. Oh, where to begin when it comes to the Arizona basketball team.
Why not the end where Arizona found some intestinal fortitude to get a tough victory over Stanford to take control of the Pac-12 Conference race? It got a big steal from Parker Jackson-Cartwright and later a big final-minute basket from Rawle Alkins to take the lead for good. And then Allonzo Trier hit some free throws.
Big moments in a big game that eventually saw Arizona win, 73-71, in Palo Alto, Calif., to make it 16 straight victories over the Cardinal. Sean Miller has yet to lose to Stanford as UA’s coach, winning 15 straight.
Arizona is now 16-4 overall and 6-1 in the conference.
Arizona’s rally down the stretch was admirable and gritty, eventually helping the Wildcats get to the finish line for its 13th win in 14 games.
Trier led with 21 points. Dusan Ristic had 18 points. Alkins had 13 points. Ristic called it “an ultimate team win” in talking to reporters in Palo Alto.
It was a nice win in a game that had more elements than a plot from the TV show Scandal. Like the show, it was a cliffhanger and an episode where stay tuned for next week when something else will come up to make you scratching your head, much like Saturday afternoon during CBS’s Road to the Final Four.
CBS might as well make it Arizona’s Bumpy Road to the Final Four – if it gets there. There’s still a lot of road to be ridden being it’s only mid-January. And, well, nothing really matters until March.
Still, Arizona’s win was a good on Saturday. It beats the alternative.
During some stretches, Arizona looked Final Four-worthy (the end when it found a way in the final four minutes, during its 11-0 run to get even at 57 and the beginning of the game when it had a 25-13 lead).
“Reid Travis was having his way with us and (then) we went small,” said UA associate head coach Lorenzo Romar in the postgame radio show. “Coach Miller did a great job of working the game from the sideline. We turned up the heat and made the game a little more difficult for Reid Travis to catch the basketball. Then we shrunk the floor where we had guys in the gaps where we made him pass the ball.”
Arizona was burned only once after that.
But as is the case for Arizona basketball this season, nothing is ever easy. Welcome to Arizona’s squeak-by win over Stanford, a team that had UA’s number until it didn’t.
The Cardinal all but stopped wunderkind Deandre Ayton, holding him to a season-low nine points. He failed to get another double-double, with just eight rebounds.
Stanford had more free throws than the Cats (something that rarely happens), it out-rebounded UA. It all had UA on the ropes … until Arizona rope-a-doped enough to eventually get the win.
What it also showed was Arizona was able to pull it off despite Ayton being in foul trouble and stymied. In stepped Ristic to save the day. Throughout the season, he’s had moments of glory but Saturday was his best front-to-finish performance of the season. Sean Miller said Ristic was a big reason why Arizona won.
“Dusan came up big for us,” Romar said. “Rawle Alkins did a great job of finding him around the rim for him to score. Dusan is a senior and it’s his last time here. He’s never lost here. He showed his leadership by how he played.”