The win gives Arizona its second-straight Pac 12 tournament title, and its third in four seasons. Now the Wildcats turn their focus to the NCAA Tournament where they’ll likely stay out west and play in San Diego for the first two rounds. They took care of Colorado in the quarterfinals but needed overtime to get past UCLA. A win over the first-seed cements UCL’s inclusion; win or lose in the finals.
Ayton finished with a game-high 32 points, which also marked a new career high for the star big man, to go with 14 rebounds in a game that turned into a classic battle between the longtime foes. UCLA, which boasts future National Basketball Association talent in Aaron Holiday and Kris Wilkes, are efficient offensively (18th) but struggle defensively (109th).
“The dominance he just put forth, if there’s another player better, I’d like to meet him”, Arizona coach Sean Miller said. Ayton leads Arizona with a double-double per game, putting up 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while Jackson-Cartwright leads the Wildcats in assists with 4.6 assists per game this season. As a team, UCLA is scoring 82.4 points per game on 46.4% shooting from the field, 38.8% from behind the arc and 72.2% from the foul line this season.
Holiday singlehandedly carried the Bruins over Stanford on Thursday. Holiday played all 40 minutes. With the statement win over Stanford yesterday and going into OT with Arizona, UCLA might have given themselves the boost they need to get the invitation to the Big Dance.
Nick Rakocevic led USC with 13 points on the night. Holliday played 36 minutes. “We can’t keep this on our mind and beat ourselves up over this game”.
Alkins’ dunk over Stewart caused maybe the loudest of the night in T-Mobile Arena and still had Arizona’s players talking long after the game.
But Arizona was superb on defense most of the day, though, holding Colorado to 5-of-20 shooting from 3-point range and nabbing 11 steals, including four by Rawle Alkins. Alonzo Trier took over the reigns, scoring 22 points for the Wildcats. They did so in the first half outrebounding the Wildcats and failed to get an offensive rebound. We fought all year, and hopefully we can continue to fight here for a couple more weeks.
It was the Trojans’ first appearance in the conference tournament championship game since 2009. Aaron Holiday is looking like an absolute superstar. A fine array of post moves and excellent touch on his jump hook made him USC’s counter to the work done by Arizona’s big man.
CU took early leads of up to six points but the Wildcats tied it at 17 on a reverse layup from Ayton with 10:45 left in the half and Arizona went on to take a 29-17 lead after Trier hit a 3-pointer and two free throws. Though they were exhausted, it did not make a lot of sense to continually go for the outside shot.
DeAndre Ayton is clearly on a mission to make everyone else pay for his name being mentioned in the ongoing FBI investigation.