By the time we got to the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, the world was asking what was wrong with Arizona. The Wildcats dropped all three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis including a 25-point loss to Purdue.
After four straight wins, including three over tough opponents, those fears have been assuaged a bit.
The Wildcats, frankly, looked like they were wilting under the pressure of the FBI investigation that has cost them their top recruiter. It is an investigation that the program and administration has not really addressed in public. All that anyone will admit is that the school has hired a firm to investigate the charges.
It looked like it may have still been hovering over the Wildcats in their Dec. 2 game at UNLV. They found themselves down 11 at halftime, but stormed back to force overtime. They eventually won 91-88 behind 29 points by junior guard Allonzo Trier and 28 by freshman center Deandre Ayton.
On Tuesday, Arizona met Texas A&M on a neutral court in Phoenix. It was the best team it had faced all year and it had to dig deep for a 67-64 win. The Wildcats were able to get to the free-throw line in the second half – making 20 of 24 while putting forth one of their best defensive efforts to pull out the win.
Saturday, the Wildcats hosted another probable NCAA tournament team in Alabama and Trier and Ayton once again led the charge as they combined for 54 points in the Wildcats 88-82 victory. Buoyed by the return of sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, who was playing his first game of the season after nursing a foot injury, the Wildcats outscored the Crimson Tide 50-42 in the second half to secure the win.
Arizona still has a three non-conference tilts remaining, including a home game versus UConn, before conference play starts with a bang with Arizona St. If the Wildcats are able to win all four of those then they’ll be firmly back in the conversation for national title contenders. That is, if they aren’t put on probation.