Arizona squeaked by Alabama 88-82 Saturday night to advance to 7-3 on the season.
Arizona found a groove, but is far away from hitting potential
By Justin Spears / Arizona Daily Star
You know what they always say, basketball is a game of ups and downs. Arizona's contest against Alabama was one helluva roller coaster in terms of tempo and both teams controlling the pace.
In the first half, the Wildcats jumped out to a 11-point lead after Rawle Alkins' first free throw and point of the season. Alkins returned to the rotation after missing 10 weeks with a broken foot injury and received a huge ovation when he checked in, three minutes into the game.
Even Alkins' return couldn't stop the Crimson Tide from making things interesting down the stretch. Alabama went on a 7-0 run to end the first half including a buzzer-beater three-pointer from freshman point guard Collin Sexton to take a 40-38 lead.
Second half was no different. Arizona found a spark and teeter-tottered between a two- to three-point lead and it came down to whichever team would either stop making buckets or turned the ball over. After eight ties and seven lead changes, the Cats were the ones that came out on top in the end, 88-82.
Deandre Ayton finished with a career-high 29 points and 18 rebounds while Allonzo Trier finished with 25 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field along with 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
However, Sean Miller still isn't pleased with the defensive effort and believes Arizona has ways to go before hitting its stride, but Alkins back in the mix means all of the rotation players are in order. And that's the silver lining for the Cats at this point.
Miller, Ayton and Trier spoke in the postgame press conference, hear what they had to say:
Challenge against Sexton
Allonzo Trier on the tough challenge against Alabama’s athletic guards including Collin Sexton: pic.twitter.com/YEIMn3IcSn— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017
The importance of Rawle Alkins
Allonzo Trier on Rawle Alkins returning to the rotation and playing his first game of the season. Mentions Alkins’ energy is essential for the Wildcats. pic.twitter.com/a9SfPYHYwn— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017
'[Alkins] gives our team confidence and a smile.'
Sean Miller on Rawle Alkins returning: “He gives our team confidence and a smile.” pic.twitter.com/88UvB0XyJa— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017
Deandre Ayton is the best player in college basketball, per Miller
Sean Miller says Deandre Ayton was the difference maker in Saturday’s win over Alabama and he has “a hard time believing” anyone in college basketball is better than him. pic.twitter.com/mQmRjSwtET— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017
Who does Ayton remind Miller of?
Sean Miller on Deandre Ayton’s skill set and says he’s similar to Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett. However, Miller says the best comparison is David West and says Ayton is a taller, more explosive version of him. pic.twitter.com/HrSNfBR2i5— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017
Alkins' return = minutes cut for other players
Sean Miller on the rotation altering and other players’ minutes being cut down with Rawle Alkins back in the lineup: “This is the University of Arizona. Not everybody gets to start and play ... Our focus has to be winning and being the best team that we can be.” pic.twitter.com/quCR5pqZAV— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 10, 2017