Arizona found a way; willed its way; and, well, Rawle Alkins-ed its way to a victory.
Did it have any other choice?
Sean Miller called it a “resiliency” of having won big games before.
Playing without leading scorer Allonzo Trier and key reserve Ira Lee (concussion), Arizona found a way in overtime to beat Oregon State 75-65 in Corvallis, Ore.
In fact, Arizona was fortunate to survive two open shots in the corner in regulation to get its 22nd win of the season as it won for the eighth time in 10 games in true road games. Arizona, at 13-2 in the Pac-12, needs one more win to lock up the Pac-12 Conference title. On Saturday, UA faces Oregon, often considered the tougher place to play when in Oregon.
No one said it would be easy on this trip given Miller has never swept the Oregon schools in his time at UA. Clearly, Arizona was up against it on Thursday night even before the Wildcats made it public that Trier is ineligible for an undisclosed amount of time after testing positive for the second time in two seasons.
“It’s devastating,” Miller said of the news about Trier’s suspension on his postgame radio show. “We’ve been at this for a long, long time. We’re at game 28 (this season). My hope is that it can be resolved as soon as tomorrow.”
Alkins took over the role of being the late-game hero in Trier’s absence as he hit two late-game free throws to eventually send the game into overtime. He followed it with two big 3-pointers that gave UA a 10-0 run and comfortable cushion and eventually the victory. He finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
“I really believe in Rawle,” Miller said. “I’ve watched him for three, four years now years and he rises to the challenge. Tonight was one of those nights. He didn’t have his typical game for a lot of the game, but he was able to put that behind him.”
Miller said Alkins’ two free throws and the 3-pointer from the corner late in the game were huge.
Arizona needed every positive play on a night where nothing seemed to go right before the game – the suspension – and in the second half after it once again blew a double digit lead in the second half. Arizona shot poorly from the free throw line (16-24) something it does really well.
But it was able to keep Oregon State from scoring a basket in the final few minutes of the second half to stay close and keep the Beavers from gaining a big lead. Oregon State had two chances to put the game away in the final seconds but Steve Thompson missed shots from the corner to help keep UA in it.
Deandre Ayton added a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds for his 18th double-double. Dusan Ristic, who continues to play well, had 14 points, including two that came in overtime that kept UA’s momentum rolling.