On Saturday night in Las Vegas the Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team took a breath. The past couple of weeks for the program has been filled with controversy.
The Wildcats were the top seed in the conference coming into the tournament and they showed everybody why the Cats are still the cream of the crop in the Pac-12 Conference.
One big reason why Arizona dominated the Pac-12 Tournament was that their man in the middle, Deandre Ayton was dominant.
Deandre Ayton is a guy who has been under a ton scrutiny due to allegations of money payments being made to him and his family. With all that hanging over Ayton he went out and scored 32 points against a good USC team in the championship game. Ayton also pulled down 18 rebounds.
On Friday night, against UCLA, Deandre Ayton went out and scored 32 points. He also had 14 rebounds.
In a span of 48 hours Ayton had 64 points and 29 rebounds.
NBA scouts know who this guy is. Ayton is widely considered the number one pick in this upcoming NBA Draft. With statistics like this he will cement that thought into the minds of NBA scouts, coaches, and general managers.
Throughout much of the first half of play the game was close. The lead never got above four points. USC nor Arizona could gain much breathing room. Sean Miller and Andy Enfield were not going to let this game get away from their teams in the first half of play.
The score was tied four times and the lead changed hands seven times.
USC went into the locker room up 33-30 at half.
Nick Rakocevic was the leading scorer for the Trojans with 13 points, Jonah Mathews was right behind him with 11 points. Chimezie Metu had a hard time getting his game going. He had as many fouls as points, which was two.
For Arizona, Deandre Ayton led with 13 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes of play. Dusan Ristic had eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time.
With all of the FBI controversy happening with Arizona, the fans of USC were letting Sean Miller have it. You heard chants of “100k, 100k, 100k” at different points during pre-game and the first half. I also heard references to wiretaps from the Trojan fans sitting right behind me.
Fans will be fans.
Arizona came out with a quick 5-0 run. Somebody said something to get the message across in that Wildcat locker room. Wildcat Nation rose to its feet with appreciation and the momentum had gone to the Arizona Wildcats.
After a Chimezie Metu dunk the score was tied at 35. In my mind this game had overtime written all over it.
The Wildcats had other ideas.
In a span of about 40 seconds Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins gave their Wildcat team all the fire they needed to close out this game.
Rawle Alkins cut down the lane and took a pass from a double teamed Deandre Ayton and threw down on monstrous dunk. It was a Sportscenter Top Ten kind of dunk. That got the Wildcat team and fans into a frenzy. Blood was in the water and Arizona was wanting the kill.
The other part of this late second half surge by the Wildcats was that Trojans just started missing shots. In a game that had been close all the way, the Trojans had let this game get away from them.
After a Dusan Ristic jumper pumped the lead to 10 points, the Trojans did manage to get the lead back down to six and maintain a little semblance of hope.
However, from that point on, any hope that USC had was gone. Arizona got the lead up to 14 points with 2:10 left and that sealed it.
Trojan fans started heading for the exits and the Wildcat fans could sense the impending victory.
When the final buzzer sounded it was a 75-61 win for the Arizona Wildcats. The third Pac-12 Conference Tournament crown in the last four years.