Trier leads Arizona past UNLV in overtime, 91-88
LAS VEGAS (AP) Since 1960 only three college basketball teams west of the Rockies have won a national title: UCLA, Arizona, and UNLV.
Two of them put on quite a show Saturday night.
Allonzo Trier scored eight of his team-high 29 points in overtime to lead Arizona past UNLV, 91-88, inside a raucous Thomas and Mack Center.
”When the game is on the line, my preparation holds me through,” said Trier, who was 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in overtime. ”I’ve worked for that moment, so I expect to go there and make them and do what I do and step up, make the free throws and get us the win.”
Deandre Ayton had 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 12 points for the Wildcats.
”I thought it was a great college basketball game. Las Vegas is an incredible basketball town, obviously Tucson is as well,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”The history of our programs brings out the best in this environment, and the same when we play them in McKale (Center). Deandre and Allonzo are gifted, especially on offense, and our team will learn how to bring out the best in them. The thing about players like those two, they’ll make the game easier for the rest of our team.”
After a poor showing in the first half, Arizona (5-3) came out of the locker room sizzling, hitting three 3-pointers during a 13-8 run that carved into UNLV’s lead, making it 49-43 less than four minutes into the second half.
Arizona took its first lead of the game at the 9:42 mark, when Dylan Smith converted a 3-point play. The teams traded baskets until Trier hit three straight buckets for the Wildcats, giving them a 67-64 lead with a little more than six minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats hit 18 of 29 (62.1 percent) in the second half.
”The first half we were in a little slump with our shooting, but in the second half we really broke out, driving, getting fouls, shooting at the line, and getting rhythm shots,” Ayton said. ”But that environment is the craziest environment I’ve ever played in. I couldn’t even hear myself, I lost my voice. This is a great environment to play in.”
Ayton came into the weekend one of just seven players in the nation averaging at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, while shooting 60 percent or better from the field. Ayton is one of just two freshmen in college basketball with the feat, ironically, along with Brandon McCoy, who led UNLV (6-2) with a game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds.
Shakur Juiston added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Rebels.
The teams played in front of 14,579 fans, including a heavy dose of Wildcats faithful, the largest crowd at the Thomas and Mack Center since UNLV hosted Nevada on Feb. 25 last season, when 14,808 attended.
”I think it was great for our freshmen to experience what it is to play a true road game,” Trier said. ”We have so many young guys, after the game they were like `is it like that every time?’ Every time Arizona comes into town it’s a big game for the other team, and you know they’re going to have their best crowd, they’re going to play their best game trying to beat us.”
Which is exactly what UNLV did, opening the game with the hot hand by hitting 54.5 percent (6 of 11) from the field over the first eight minutes, while the Wildcats hit a mere 22.2 percent (4 of 18). UNLV led 41-30 at halftime after shooting 17 for 30 (56.7 percent), and outrebounding the Wildcats 24-16. Arizona shot just 35 percent (14 of 40) over the first 20 minutes.
”The game could’ve gone either way, I credit our guys for hanging in there,” Miller said. ”We were down big at half and it’s not easy to have a second half like we did.”
Arizona: After becoming the first team in 31 years to drop from No. 2 all the way out of the Top 25 poll, after a disastrous trip to the Bahamas, the Wildcats received 34 votes last week and look for a possible return to the poll after going 2-0 this week. Arizona had been ranked in every AP Top 25 poll, counting preseason and weekly polls, since the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels are now 8-2 all-time versus Arizona at home, including 4-2 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV is 12-9 against Arizona all-time and 61-61 against teams that currently make up the Pac-12 Conference. The Runnin’ Rebels defeated Utah, 85-58, on Nov. 22.
Arizona plays No. 9 Texas A&M on Tuesday, in the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix.
UNLV plays Oral Roberts on Tuesday, at the MGM Grand Garden.