Deandre Ayton posted the worst offensive half of his career Thursday, scoring just two points on 1-5 shooting in the first half against CSU Bakersfield.
Unlike in the Arizona Wildcats’ first two games of the season where Ayton was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, the 7-footer mostly strayed on the perimeter.
Ayton attempted three 3s in the first half — he had attempted two in the first two games combined — and missed all of them.
Sean Miller has been upset about his players’ shot selection in the past — like last year when he said Keanu Pinder taking a 3 is a “bad shot for our team” — but he had no issue with Ayton’s decision to fire away (they were open looks, to be fair).
“He doesn’t take bad shots. He doesn’t,” Miller said. “He’s as unselfish a young big guy as there is. And the ones he takes from 3 are good.”
Ayton made his lone 3-point attempt in the second half and eventually finished with 18 points on 6-11 shooting, shaking off his poor first-half performance.
“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.”
Given Ayton’s size and athleticism, opposing teams will likely devise their defensive schemes in ways that will try to lure him to the perimeter, especially on pick-and-roll/pop coverage — anything to keep him away from the basket.
And while Miller is comfortable with Ayton shooting 3s, he admitted he would like to see Ayton work more on his shot if he’s going to be taking so many during games.
“I do think we can start convincing him to come in a little extra and work on it,” Miller said. “And again, with a young player like that, things come so easy for him that maybe working extra before or after practice … I think that would serve him well and that’s the next conversation. If he wants to shoot them, we’re going to shoot more of them on a daily basis, which he’s always known to put the work in."
Before arriving at Arizona, Ayton said he shot over 40 percent from 3 in high school and that he would be “walking in the footsteps of (Lauri) Markkanen” as a stretch 4 with the Wildcats.
So far in a small sample size, Ayton is 1-6 from beyond the arc at Arizona.
As much as it might make sense to keep him on the low block as often as possible, the long ball is, and will remain, part of his game.
“It felt good,” Ayton said after making his first career 3 against CSUB. “You’re going to see a lot of those.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire