Tag: Deandre Ayton

Duel in the Desert: Arizona St vs. Arizona Preview

 

Arizona St and Arizona are preparing to play perhaps the biggest regular season game in the history of the rivalry. That’s because the preseason top-5 Wildcats are rolling again while their opponents, the Sun Devils, are the talk of the college basketball world.

Over the past thirty-plus years, Arizona has been one of the marquee brands in college basketball. Arizona St, on the other hand, has had specific years where it’ll surprisingly pop up and make the tournament, but it has never been able to sustain success.

This year’s game is different. Both teams are playing well especially on offense. They both rate in the top-ten in adjusted offensive effiency.

The Sun Devils will be led by probable All-American senior guard Tra Holder, who’s averaging 21.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He’s been aptly supported by his backcourt mate senior Shannon Evans II, who’s averaging 17.8 points per game and 4.7 assists.

Those two have been paramount in helping the Sun Devils to shock the nation this season. They not only beat Xavier and Kansas away from home, but they made it look easy. They blew out Xavier by 16 in Las Vegas in late November. Then, earlier this month, beat Kansas by 10 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse – becoming the first nonconference opponent to win at Kansas since San Diego St on Jan. 5, 2014.

Arizona on the other hand, had a dubious start to its season as it lost all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week. Since then, the Wildcats seem to have fixed their problems and have their glue guy, sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, back from injury.

Junior guard Allonzo Trier lead the Wildcats in scoring with 21.2 points per game. He’s the one in the 1-2 punch that also features freshman center Deandre Ayton, who’s averaging 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

What will be the difference? I believe it will be Ayton. In neither of the Sun Devils’ wins over Kansas or Xavier did they have to match-up with a presence like Ayton. Freshman forward Romello White and junior forward De’Quon Lake provide a solid presence in the frontcourt, but the physical Ayton, the future lottery pick, is a totally different animal.

Add that with Arizona at home, neither team being great defensively, and it being New Year’s Eve and I have the Wildcats in a 92-88 win over the Sun Devils.

 

 

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Wildcat Bounceback

 

Ayton Alabama
Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) throws down a dunk on Alabama forward Donta Hall (0) in the first half of their game at McKale Center, Saturday, December 9, 2017, Tucson, Ariz.
Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

 

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.