LAS VEGAS – Sean Miller had yet to arrive back for a postgame interview by the time I had to file my final game story, so here’s how he broke down Arizona's 91-88 overtime win at UNLV:
On the key to a more cohesive, efficient second half: “We just settled in the second half. In the first half, I think we had that deer-in-the-headlights look a little bit. But Brandon Randolph made some really big shots in the second half. I thought Dylan Smith gave us some good minutes. Ira (Lee) played (22) minutes really big.
"But at the end of the day we have two offensive players who are really good (Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier) and I think our team over time will learn how to utilize those two guys, how to bring out the best in them because both of them will make the game easier for the rest of our team. That’s up to us as a coaching staff to do that as well.”
On Ayton (28 points, 10 rebounds) and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy (33 and 10): “You don’t oftentimes see two freshman big guys like that and Deandre was terrific. Allonzo was, too, but yet we had a lot of other guys in the second half make plays and quietly Parker (Jackson-Cartwright, 12 points, three assists) did a great job as our point guard, which is great to see.”
On whether his postgame complaints Wednesday about not playing hard set in with his players: “We’re working hard. We’re not gonna just turn it around. You’ve got to kind of get better by inches and I think if you talk to the players they would echo that.”
Ayton and Trier were the two players made available for comment. Here’s what they said about Miller’s talk:
Trier: “I’m sure it got through. Kind of a wake-up call. We have a lot of young guys. This is their first seven or eight games playing for Sean Miller, so they have no clue what it’s like. But with a guy like me, Sean Miller been coaching me since I was a junior in high school (with USA Basketball), so we have history together. We’ve spent quite a bit of time together so I understand what he wants out of me.
“It’s about rising to the challenge and trying to set an example for these freshmen. I can’t just worry about me. I can’t just be good enough and say, `I’m doing all right' and not setting an example, setting the tone for these other guys. I could give a little more of myself and try to lead this team.”
Ayton: “Zo and I were included in that. We’re the main reason that we have to set that. It starts with us first. Nobody’s entitled on this team. We’re all equal. And on the defensive end we have to have more effort. Coach wants us to get our stuff done on the defensive end.”
Even though UA trailed by 11 points at halftime and 13 early in the second half, Trier said the Wildcats weren't drastically different in the second half. UA had trailed just 31-28 with four minutes left before halftime when Trier dunked on an assist from Alex Barcello, before the Rebels outscored them 10-2 the rest of the half.
It was “just keep chipping away at it” in the second half, Trier said. “If you think about it, we were right there toward the end of the last four minutes and gave them kind of a run there that gave them some separation going into the second half.
“So we just had to correct some things and come back and continue to fight, play hard, continue to stick to what we were trying to do and execute on the offensive end. I think we did a better job of executing and that led to us playing well offensively in the second half.”
Before the game, Rawle Alkins went aggressively through early warmups, elevating several feet before his dunks, and didn’t look like a guy with a broken foot, except that he was wearing practice shorts.
Miiller said Alkins has been cleared for full-contact drills in practices but has only been through one such workout yet. Miller said he did not expect Alkins to play Tuesday against Texas A&M as a result.
“He’s gotta get a number of those types of (full contact) practices under his belt where there’s no soreness, where he feels confident,” Miller said. “(Going) one-on-zero is different. You get out there five-on-five and he’s still a little tentative but I think he’ll come back. Remember he has done nothing for nine weeks. Nothing.”
Meanwhile, Alkins enjoyed the game.
MAAAAANNNNNN!!!! LOVE MY SQUAAADDDDD, GREAT TEAM WIN TONIGHT!!!!!! 🙌🏿💯🔥🔴🔵#SAVAGELIFE— Rawle Alkins (@Iam_RawleAlkins) December 3, 2017
Our game story and seen-and-heard notes are attached to this post, along with PDFs of the box score and updated stats.