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Deandre Ayton, Brandon Randolph shine in Arizona’s Red-Blue Game

UA’s freshmen are impressive

Mataro All-Stars v Arizona Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Despite all the turmoil surrounding the Arizona Wildcats, it was business as usual Friday for the team’s annual Red-Blue game.

The UA’s talent — impressive as ever this season — was on display in front of a boisterous sold-out McKale Center crowd.

After freshman Brandon Randolph won the dunk contest, the Blue team, led by Deandre Ayton, knocked off the Red team, 55-37.

Randolph had 16 points on 5-11 shooting, while Allonzo Trier had 15 points on 6-11 shooting.

Here are some takeaways.

Ayton is astonishing

Ayton had a game-high 21 points on 10-14 shooting, scoring in transition, in the paint, with several mid-range jumpers, and then a 3 late in the second half.

The blue team’s first two possessions resulted in mid-range jumpers for Ayton, who made the first and missed the second.

Ayton took a few more jumpers, but settled in the paint and was able to get out and run in transition for a few slams, which is a sight to see.

It was impossible to not marvel at just how physically gifted he is.

Despite being 7-foot-1, 260 pounds (which is a legitimate measurement), Ayton glides up and down the court. That 43.5-inch vertical is not an exaggeration, either.

Randolph’s diverse game

Not only did Randolph win the dunk contest, he was the best player in the first half of the scrimmage.

He tallied nine first-half points, weaving his way to the rim and hitting a 3-pointer after an array of dribble moves. He hit another long jumper off the dribble in the second half.

Randolph looked smooth, skilled, and certainly athletic. Impressive stuff, and it seems like he’d be the frontrunner to fill in for the injured Rawle Alkins.

3-point shooting was dismal

Players were probably more amped than usual since this was their first time on their home court this season, and that may have affected their shooting touch.

Hopefully that’s what it was.

The Wildcats were 2-19 from 3 as a team. Randolph and Ayton were the only two to hit from the perimeter.

Overall length and versatility

There are athletes all over the roster, and the potential to have Emmanuel Akot, Ira Lee, and Brandon Randolph coming off the bench (at least when Alkins comes back) is ridiculous.

Lee is bigger than I expected. He was guarding Chase Jeter at one point, and didn’t look overmatched physically.

Lee didn’t venture out to the perimeter, doing most of his damage around the rim instead. He had a couple powerful slams, including one off a pretty bounce pass from Ristic who was at the high post.

Akot guarded Trier at times, and Miller said after the game that Akot is one of the best freshman defenders he’s had.

Miller also lauded freshman Alex Barcello’s defensive prowess.

PJC’s tenacity

Jackson-Cartwright was a menace early on, tallying three steals (all in the first half) while hounding Barcello.

Both PJC and Allonzo Trier looked quicker than they did last year.

It felt like Trier had a quiet game aside from a few dunks, but he ended up with 15 points anyway.

Jackson-Cartwright had two assists, but four turnovers.

Chase down block

Jeter didn’t look super impressive athletically, but he showed nice touch in the paint, scoring a few times on spin moves. His footwork was a little robotic and sort of reminded me of Kaleb Tarczewski, though.

Jeter was active defensively, with two blocks, meeting Randolph at the rim for one and blocking Emmanuel Akot from behind in transition on another, but fouled out in just 12 minutes thanks to a few offensive fouls.

Jeter can’t play this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will likely be Arizona’s starting center next year, and that looks like a role he can handle.

Other notes

  • Dylan Smith displayed a nice jumper and his length on defense was noticeable, but he’s really thin and didn’t look all that quick.
  • Keanu Pinder scored off the dribble and made a mid-range jumper. If he can provide anything on offense this year, he’ll be valuable player.
  • Rawle Alkins, who is out with a broken foot, rode a scooter through the tunnel during introductions.
  • Dave Heeke, Adia Barnes, Wilbur and Wilma, and the ZonaZoo president were the dunk contest judges.
  • Shareef O'Neal, Nico Mannion and other recruits were sitting courtside together. Predictably, O’Neal had people lining up to take pictures with him.
  • Yes, Shaquille O’Neal was in attendance.
  • Pregame buzz at McKale Center was as palpable as usual (Jon Rothstein was at the game, so I had to use that adjective)
  • Sean Miller capped off the intro video, instead of Ray Smith. Smith was on the blue team’s bench, though. Miller said he is essentially a student manager.
  • Miller gave a short statement before the dunk contest, thanking the fans, telling them which color to root for based on which section they were sitting in, then said the team is on a “quest to do special things.” And that was basically it. Miller got a loud ovation when introduced as usual.
  • Tucson native Talbott Denny got a nice ovation. The Lipscomb grad transfer missed all of last season with a torn ACL. He played just two minutes.

Full box score

Red team (coached by Sean Miller)

  • Emmanuel Akot
  • Brandon Randolph
  • Ira Lee
  • Jake DesJardins
  • Tyler Trillo
  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright
  • Dusan Ristic

Blue team (coached by Lorenzo Romar)

  • Deandre Ayton
  • Allonzo Trier
  • Alex Barcello
  • Chase Jeter
  • Talbott Denny
  • Keanu Pinder
  • Dylan Smith
  • Matthew Weyand

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire