Career numbers for Ayton in Wildcats win over Alabama
Since dropping three consecutive games at the 2017 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Classic over Thanksgiving, Bahamian DeAndre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats (7–3) have won four games in a row, and once again look like the team that was highly ranked in the nation at the beginning of the season.
Ayton played well at home in The Bahamas, and the 7-foot-1 freshman center has stepped up his play even more during the recent streak. He had another sensational game on Saturday, collecting 29 points and 18 rebounds, both career highs, in Arizona’s 88–82 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (7–3). Two games earlier, he had a career high 28 points in a 91–88 overtime win over University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels.
Ayton was recently bumped up to the No. 1 spot in the mock NBA drafts of Sports Illustrated and NBADraft.net last week, and according to Wildcats Head Coach Sean Miller, he doesn’t see any need for anyone to contest the updated mock drafts. Ayton is set to be The Bahamas’ second lottery pick in the past three years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft, joining Chavano “Buddy” Hield, who was selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016. Hield is now a second-year guard for the Sacramento Kings, having being traded by the Pelicans midway through his rookie season.
As for Ayton, prior to the start of the season, scouts and analysts questioned his motor, claiming he didn’t give his best effort each game. Miller said he never wants to hear that critique of his prized freshman ever again.
“They’re almost fabricating or inventing things that aren’t true,” said Miller. “He is a special talent and we’ve seen it in a number of situations. When the game’s on the line, he rises to the challenge, and offensively down the stretch he made eight baskets for us (against Alabama). He practices hard, he’s responsible, he takes care of business, but his ability as a player in my mind is unmatched. I don’t know how to describe what he’s able to do, as he’s so skilled and yet so big and athletic. Usually there’s one or the other. He has both.”
Ayton overpowered Alabama’s big men, and junior guard Allonzo Trier erupted in the second half to seal the deal on Saturday. Trier scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half.
“If I can throw it into DeAndre, nobody is going to leave me, so he has all the room to work,” Trier said on playing with Ayton. “One person between him and the basket, he’s going to score all day.”
Alabama pulled within four, 84–80, on Riley Norris’ three-pointer with 38 seconds left to play. However, the Crimson Tide could get no closer, as Trier hit three free throws in the final 34 seconds to secure the win.
Highly touted freshman Colin Sexton scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half, and Donta Hall had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Alabama.
Ayton has notched double-doubles in each of Arizona’s last three games, and is averaging 20.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game this season. Ayton has double-doubles in eight of the Wildcats 10 games this season.
The Wildcats will be in action again on Saturday when they take on New Mexico (3–7), and will begin conference play on December 30 against the undefeated No. 16 Arizona State Sun Devils (9–0).