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3 up, 3 down in Arizona’s win over North Dakota State

Despite a rough start, the Wildcats made easy work of the Bison on Monday

NCAA Basketball: North Dakota State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats took care of business on Monday night, handling the North Dakota State Bison, 83-53. The ‘Cats have now won six in a row as non-conference play nears its end.

It wasn’t 40 minutes of domination but ultimately, the Wildcats did do just that — dominate.

Let’s take a look at three up and three down from the win that moved Arizona to 9-3.


3 Up

Deandre Ayton

The man is just unfair.

Ayton finished with a game-high 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting and added nine rebounds with a block.

North Dakota State played hard but they just never had a chance against Ayton and it’s not their fault. Nobody has had a chance against him. They actually fared better against Ayton than some. This was just his third game of the season that he didn’t finish with a double-double.

His work on the glass may have been slightly more limited than usual but there was no hope of stopping Ayton around the rim Monday.

Alkins’ Defense

The Bison started hot from 3-point land but Arizona’s perimeter defense settled in and forced some bad shots from deep. The man at the front of the pack was Rawle Alkins, forcing tough shots from mediocre looks and using his active hands to cause havoc.

Only one of Rawle’s three games was successful on offense. Of course, that was the terrific performance resulting in a career-high 26 points against New Mexico.

But defensively, Alkins has been living the savage life. He’s got at least one block and one steal in each game since his return.

Emmanuel Akot

He played! Double-digit minutes even.

Akot got 10 minutes in Monday’s win after not playing since Arizona’s meeting with Texas A&M on Dec. 5. This was actually the first time Akot received 10 minutes since the final Bahamas loss, a blowout defeat to Purdue.

He ended up shooting just 1-for-2 but the shot he made is a bigger deal than meets the eye. In the limited minutes Akot has had, he’s settled for almost nothing but 3-pointers. Until tonight, Akot had taken 15 3-pointers to just nine 2-pointers. And he hadn’t made a good old fashioned two-point bucket since the season opener.

Akot drove in and knocked down a pull-up jumper on Monday night, a nice sneak peek of his athleticism. Akot needs to utilize more of that. He’s taken a grand total of one free throw in his Arizona career. If he’s more aggressive and uses his athleticism, he can really carve out a role on this team.


3 Down

Allonzo Trier

Most times in the “Down” section, we don’t literally mean down. In this case, we do.

Trier played well yet again on Monday night. He ended up with 15 points on 5-of-8 from the floor and led the team with four assists. His fantastic 3-point shooting continued with 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

But Trier’s night came to an early and unfortunate end when he banged knees with a North Dakota State player. He was on the floor for over a minute and reacted like it could be serious. Without seeing a replay of the knees banging together, it was natural for the live McKale crowd to fear the worst. Eventually Trier limped off the court and headed back to the locker room.

While there’s probably a nice bone bruise forming, Trier came out of the locker room in the final minutes to cheers. He watched the rest of the game from the bench with his knee heavily iced.

We’ll know more Tuesday but the injury doesn’t seem too serious. Let’s just hope he’s healthy for Thursday’s game against UConn.

Slow Start

Arizona ended up winning by 30 and that’s what matters. But North Dakota State punched Arizona in the mouth early on. NDSU led by four more than eight minutes in and hung with the Wildcats for the first 13 minutes. The game was tied at 22 with under seven minutes left in the first half.

Arizona ended the half with a 16-0 run and safely took the game from there.

The Wildcats are on the verge of playing Pac-12 teams, opening up with the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12, the Arizona State Sun Devils, on Dec. 30. When Arizona embarks on conference play, they’ll be dealing with opposing crowds that want nothing more than to see their team beat the Wildcats.

Opening up a game at McKale by having a tough time with North Dakota State will not fly pretty soon. Arizona is capable of 16-0 runs and flat out domination. But they can’t let a slow start put them in a situation where they need 16-0 runs.

3-Pointers

Arizona shot a sparkling 9-of-13 against New Mexico on Saturday. They didn’t settle, they took smart, open shots and knocked them down.

Monday night was a different story. They shot 5-of-20 from deep but that includes 3-of-4 from Trier. Everybody else shot 2-of-16 from long range and plenty of them were forced and unnecessary.

It didn’t matter on Monday night. They still scored 83 points and shot 61 percent on 2-pointers. But in the future, the Wildcats need to be a bit smarter with their shot selection.