Allonzo Trier scored a lot of points, Deandre Ayton posted another double-double, and the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats won big in high-scoring fashion.
It was business as usual Thursday in McKale Center when UA beat Cal State Bakersfield, 91-59, to improve to 3-0 heading into Battle 4 Atlantis.
Trier dropped 28 points, shooting 8-9 from the field, 3-3 from 3, and 9-12 from the free throw line. The junior is averaging 30 points per game on 70 percent shooting through three games.
“He’s the best shooting guard in the NCAA,” Ayton said.
Ayton overcame a shaky first half to post 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. The freshman scored 16 points in the second half alone.
“In the first half I wasn’t really making any shots,” Ayton said. “My teammates were getting open, and passed me the ball pretty well, but Coach talked to me and said ‘play through it’.”
Ayton made his first career 3 to put Arizona up 53-35 with 15:49 in the second half after missing his first three attempts.
“It felt good,” he said of the 3. “You’re going to see a lot of those.”
Arizona failed to reach the 100-point mark for the first time this season, but the Wildcats’ offense continued to pour in points at an efficient clip.
Arizona shot 56 percent from the field, 9-16 from 3, and 28-36 from the free throw line. Dusan Ristic scored all 12 of his points in the first half. Parker Jackson-Cartwright had 11 points on two shots, shooting 6-8 from the charity stripe.
He also sank this last-second half-court shot to put Arizona up 44-27 at halftime.
Sean Miller wanted to see some improvement defensively from the Wildcats before next week’s trip to the Bahamas and he got just that.
CSUB shot 39 percent from the field and 1-16 from 3. Arizona did have trouble rebounding and defending without fouling at times, but it was a step in the right direction on that side of the ball.
“We weren’t perfect on defense, but it was our best overall performance,” Miller said.
Emmanuel Akot and Brandon Randolph struggled, combining for four points on 1-10 shooting. Randolph played a career-high 12 minutes as he continues to work his way back from a concussion.
Ira Lee had four fouls in 17 minutes, but also posted five points and seven rebounds. Alex Barcello had six points, shooting 2-4 from 3, along with two assists.
Arizona’s point guards have 30 assists to six turnovers this season.
“They’re playing excellent basketball. They’re running the show. Both guys (Jackson-Cartwright and Barcello) are hitting open men and aren’t caught up in their own scoring,” Miller said.
“When you have that position locked in on playing team basketball and playing quarterback, it sometimes makes the game easier for guys like Deandre, Dusan, or Allonzo. We’re getting a lot of good minutes at that position.”
Barcello and Akot drilled 3s to put Arizona up 65-41 with 12 minutes left as UA’s offense beautifully moved the ball against CSUB’s zone.
“I loved the way our guys moved the ball against the zone, the confidence that they had,” Miller said. “We created great shots through team play and that’s been one of our early season emphasis, to make sure we can be as comfortable as possible against changing defenses.”
Bakersfield took an early 6-2 lead, but Arizona answered with a 21-5 run to take a commanding 23-11 lead after a 3 by Trier and a layup by Jackson-Cartwright in transition.
The Roadrunners would never cut Arizona’s lead under double digits after that.
Trier led all scorers with 14 points at break; Ristic was right behind him with 12.
Ayton didn’t score his first points of the half until a tip-in with 1:41 left. He was 1-5 from the field, including 0-3 from 3 in the first 20 minutes.
“His teammates did a great job finding him, but it was great to see him put a first half where he missed a few shots and things that didn’t go his way behind him,” Miller said. “He played a really great overall second half.”
Arizona returns to action Wednesday when it will face NC State in the Bahamas in Battle 4 Atlantis.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire