Yes, it's official now. Kenpom says so...
Unbeaten teams remaining: 0 (Sorry, Arizona St.).— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) December 31, 2017
The bookmakers and bettors of Nevada were so good at weeding through the hype to pick a favorite Saturday at McKale Center that they didn't even make any money.
Even though ASU was ranked No. 3 and undefeated heading into Saturday’s game, bookies made the 17th-ranked Wildcats a five-point favorite.
Then, betting action on the Wildcats moved the line to six. UA won 84-78, making the game a push for those who bet it at 6.
But the way UA coach Sean Miller views it, the margin could have been slightly more. Arizona gave up three turnovers in the final 3:16, one eventually leading to a 3-pointer by Tra Holder and another directly leading to a 3 from Kodi Justice. UA finished with 16 turnovers.
“The game was really funny,” Miller said. “We came really unglued the last four minutes, five minutes. … We had some opportunities we didn’t get and we had some opportunities we gave them.”
Then again, Miller said Saturday’s game played out largely as he expected, in a close manner befitting of what are the Pac-12’s two best teams so far.
“They’re a really good team,” Miller said. “We’re not going to beat them by 20 points, 10, 15 points. For us to win that game going away, a lot of things would have had to have really have fallen in place. The difference between the two teams isn’t big enough for the game to go that direction.”
But the difference was Deandre Ayton, along with some late scoring punch from Allonzo Trier, who offset some of Tra Holder’s 15 free throws made by going 10 for 10 from the line.
“Allonzo and Deandre, their performance was spectacular,” Miller said. “I hope everybody in McKale realizes what 23 points and 19 rebounds feels like. For a freshman, you don’t see that very often and that’s what Deandre had. At the end, he had some unforced turnovers or forced turnovers -- he wasn’t used to getting rebounds and nobody’s running back. But he’s young. He’ll learn from it as will our team.
“Same with Allonzo. Sometimes he’ll start slow but as the game keeps going he finds his rhythm, and it’s great to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game because he can really shoot free throws, drive and shoot from three and he’s become a really good passer. Sometimes I find myself saying, man, he’s come a long way for me to say that but four assists and no turnovers (against ASU) speaks volumes for how he’s finding his teammates and takes care of the ball.”
Trier finished with 23 points after scoring just five in the first half on 1-for-7 shooting. Miller said, for the most part, Trier typically works himself out of issues.
“He’s that type of player, but certainly we always look at if there’s something we can do to help him,” Miller said. “I would say that’s something he’s done this year. He’s started slow and finished strong. We need him to start strong and finish strong. And what would that game look like? it would be a monster game.”
Another lesson to be learned: The technical foul Ayton was called for in the first half.
“I think I got it on off ball shove,” Ayton said. “I was getting grabbed. It was an intense game, so I don’t know.”
Miller offered a measured reaction.
“He might have bumped somebody after the whistle," he said. "We’ll look at it. Deandre’s not a guy who goes looking for problems. Probably just has to make sure he understands the rule, coming from high school to college, you’re not allowed to do that and if you do here’s the consequence.
“In a game like that I was surprised the call was made, but it was a tough game to referee. It really was. It was fast, had a lot of emotion, a lot of things going on. I thought they did a good job.”
When official Eric Curry came over to the Pac-12 Network crew to explain the technical, fans behind them booed loudly, so much so that he had to raise his voice.
When he finished, Curry gestured at some of the louder fans and said “sit down!”
Overall, Miller, not surprisingly, had no trouble speaking highly of Ayton every time he was asked about him in his post-game interview.
“Deandre has a great attitude. He’s really fun to coach. He’s an unbelievable teammate. He rises to the challenge. Big games bring out the best in him. He was ready for tonight’s game, and thank goodness. He really put the game out of reach.
“When we won the game it was because of his dominance close to the basket, getting fouled. We did a good job of getting him the ball deep and that’s not as easy to do as everybody thinks. And Deandre for the most part did a really good job on defense in the job and role that he had.
"(ASU forward) Romello White didn’t have his typical game and that combination of Deandre and Dusan (Ristic) affected him, I’m sure, at least to some degree.”
Arizona and ASU will meet again on Feb. 15 in Tempe and it would hardly be surprising if they also met deep in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Trier said the Sun Devils are clearly a different team than the one he faced in two previous seasons, when UA beat them all four times.
“Different team. Different dynamic,” Trier said. “Obviously, they came in really hot, playing with a lot of confidence as well and anytime somebody has confidence it allows them to do some things better and they feel really good playing. Tip of the hat to them. They played really well tonight. Challenged us tonight all the way to the wire and they’ll continue to win in the conference.”
Then Sun Devils began calling themselves "Guard U" after beating Xavier (see the "It Happened in Vegas" note here), and Arizona decided to apparently troll them with a video intro featuring its own guards of the past.
UA, of course, used to be known as "Point Guard U."
Our full coverage and PDFs of the box score and UA stats are attached to this post.