LAS VEGAS — Deandre Ayton knows what you probably saw in the Bahamas, so he pushed the reset button Saturday in Las Vegas.
That worked out pretty well for the Arizona Wildcats. Ayton had a career-high 28 and 10 rebounds, while Allonzo Trier added 29 points, to lead UA to a 91-88 overtime win over UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.
The win followed three UA losses last week in the Battle 4 Atlantis and a 35-point win over Long Beach State on Wednesday, after which UA coach Sean Miller lambasted his players’ effort.
“We just learned our lesson in the Bahamas , but we want to show everybody we ain’t going nowhere,” Ayton said.
While Miller’s postgame rant on Wednesday didn’t appear to be aimed mostly at Ayton or Trier, Ayton said they both needed to set a better tone, too.
“Zo and I were included,” Ayton said.
For the first 30 minutes Saturday, the Wildcats trailed and looked at times like the lost team in the Battle 4 Atlantis, with offensive teamwork and defense alike both struggling.
The Wildcats trailed 41-30 at halftime and ended up allowing UNLV to shoot 53.2 percent from the field for the game, but the Rebels had 18 turnovers that led to 22 Arizona points while the Wildcats’ teamwork improved down the stretch.
Arizona shot 46.7 percent overall, with Ayton going 12 of 23 from the field, mostly scoring inside but also hitting 1 of 3 3-pointers he took. Trier was 10 of 19, though he made only 1 of 6 3-pointers.
“It was two teams really going at it and we really rose to the challenge tonight,” Trier said.
Brandon McCoy led UNLV with a career-high 33 points on 13-for-17 shooting.
The win moved UA to 5-3 heading into a game Tuesday against No. 9-ranked Texas A&M in Phoenix. UNLV dropped to 6-2.
Tied at 78 at the end of regulation, UA took early two-point leads in overtime on baskets from Trier and Ayton, who tied his career-high of 27 points when he powered in for a layup with 3:06 left.
Trier later hit two free throws after a foul by McCoy to give UA a 86-84 lead, but McCoy slammed in a dunk on the other end to tie it at 86 entering the final minute of overtime.
With 36 seconds left, Trier drove inside and was blocked by McCoy but, after officials reviewed the play, they ruled it went out of bounds by McCoy and Arizona was able to inbound. Parker Jackson-Cartwright fed it to Ayton underneath the basket and Shakur Juiston fouled Ayton.
Ayton then missed the first free throw but hit the second to give UA an 87-86 lead and then, after UNLV’s Tervell Beck missed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, Trier was fouled and hit both free throws.
That put Arizona up 89-86 and the Wildcats held on from there while UNLV’s Jordan Johnson and Trier traded two free throws each the rest of the way.
Both teams had a chance to pull out a win in the final 34 seconds of regulation. Tied at 78 with 34 seconds left, UA called a timeout but the play resulted in Dylan Smith driving the ball in for an off-balance layup that bounced off the glass. While Ira Lee rebounded the miss, the Wildcats were called for a shot-clock violation.
UNLV then had nine seconds to win the game but also could not get off a decent shot, with Jovan Mooring missing a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Arizona took its first lead with 9:39 to go and later pulled ahead 70-67 on a corner 3-pointer from Parker Jackson-Cartwright. But McCoy banked in a 3 from the top of the key to tie the game at 70 entering the final four minutes, and it remained close the rest of regulation.
Ayton scored twice inside to give UA a 76-73 lead but Kris Clyburn hit a wide-open 3-pointer from the left wing to tie it at 76 with 1:09 remaining. Ayton and his old San Diego friend, McCoy, then traded inside baskets to leave it tied at 78 for the rest of regulation.
Down by nine at halftime, Arizona went on a 16-5 run over the middle of the second half to take its first lead, 61-60, when Dylan Smith converted a three-point play off a layup and free throw.
Arizona made its last six shots to that point, including a 3-pointer from Allonzo Trier, an eight-footer from Smith in the lane and a three-point play from Ristic.
Ayton said UA’s leaders pulled the team together more over that span.
“Parker (Jackson-Cartwright) and Dusan (Ristic) and our leaders said ‘Let’s finish this off. Let’s run our stuff,’” Ayton said.
Arizona allowed the Rebels to shoot 57 percent in the first half and take eight more free throws.
Ayton had 13 points and five rebounds for UA, and Trier had nine points, but the Wildcats shot just 35 percent overall and hit just 1 of 11 3-pointers (Trier missed all four he took).
McCoy and Juiston each had 10 points to lead UNLV for the first half.
The Wildcats were playing their first true road game of the season, and they were welcomed predictably. While they were warming up in relative quiet before the game, a student shouted at them “Biggest drop in the history of the AP poll — No. 2 to unranked! Good job!”
Signs in the student section also made reference to the federal investigation into college basketball: One sign said “Beat University-4,” referring to Arizona’s code name in the federal document, and another said “FBI ten most wanted fugitive: Sean Miller.”
Ayton kept the Wildcats in the game early, with a dunk and 3-pointer while UNLV took a 11-5 lead at the first media timeout. Arizona had shot just 2 for 7 at that point and UNLV made 5 of 9 while outrebounding the Wildcats 6-3 at that point.
Arizona never led in the first half, though Ayton brought the Wildcats close on several occasions.