Despite trailing by 13 early in the second half, the Arizona Wildcats came back to beat the UNLV Rebels 91-88 in overtime on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Allonzo Trier led the Wildcats with 29 points and Deandre Ayton had 28 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
They outdueled UNLV’s frontcourt duo of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston.
McCoy, Ayton’s former AAU teammate, had 33 points and 10 rebounds on 13-17 shooting. Juiston had 21 points and nine rebounds on 10-14 shooting.
Trier and Ayton scored all of Arizona’s 13 points in the overtime period. Trier finished 10-19 from the field. Ayton was 12-23.
UNLV extended its lead to 43-30 early in the second half and led the entire game until Dylan Smith converted an and-one to put Arizona up 61-60 with 9:39 left.
From there, the teams traded leads and neither team led by more than three.
The Wildcats didn’t defend particularly well in either half as UNLV shot 54 percent and 53 percent in the first two halves, respectively, but their offense kicked into gear after a slow start in the first half.
Arizona trailed 41-30 at halftime and shot 35 percent in the first half, including a 1-11 mark from 3, but shot 62 percent in the second half and a sizzling 5-7 from 3.
At one point, Arizona made six straight field goals to erase a 12-point deficit.
There were a combined nine lead changes in the second half and overtime period.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright sank a pull-up 3 to put UA up 70-67 with 4:34 left, but McCoy banked in a 3 — the first of his career — to even it up at 70.
UNLV briefly re-took the lead with a free throw, then Arizona grabbed it back after two free throws by Ayton. Then McCoy banked in a mid-range jumper to put UNLV up 73-72.
Ayton scored back-to-back buckets to put UA up 76-73 followed by Kris Clyburn 3 to tie the game at 76. Ayton and McCoy traded baskets underneath to knot the game at 78.
That’s when Arizona had the ball with 39 seconds left, but its offense stalled and Smith would fire up an errant shot in traffic as the shot clock expired. UNLV’s execution wasn’t any better on its ensuing possession as Jovan Mooring missed a long 3 to send the game to overtime.
Trier opened the overtime period with a mid-range jumper and the Rebels would tie it shortly after but would never lead in the period.
With 35 seconds left and the game tied at 86-86, Trier was blocked at the rim with two seconds left on the shot clock. After a lengthy review to see who the ball went out on, Arizona inbounded the ball to Ayton who was camped in the paint and he would be fouled.
Ayton split the free throws, then Tervell Beck missed an open 3 on the wing which was rebounded by Ayton. Trier was fouled and sank four free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Arizona improves to 5-3 on the season and 2-8 all-time against UNLV in Las Vegas. The Wildcats lacked cohesiveness on both ends in the first half, but continued to play hard in the second half in which Arizona outscored UNLV 48-37.
It is a much-needed win for Arizona for confidence purposes and also because it faces No. 9 Texas A&M on Tuesday in Phoenix and then hosts No. 24 Alabama after that.
Still, some recurring problems marred Arizona vs. UNLV. It had difficulty containing dribble penetration, guarding screens and in transition, and the offense was too often too dependent on Trier creating.
Plus, Arizona got zero points from freshmen not named Ayton in the first 20 minutes.
A good sign is Brandon Randolph got going in the second half with eight points, including two 3s, and Smith added five points.
The Wildcats also managed to keep one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country to just 10 offensive boards and turned 18 UNLV turnovers into 22 points.
Jackson-Cartwright finished with 12 points (5-10) and three assists. Dusan Ristic, who Miller staggered with Ayton in the second half, scuffled in the first half and finished with five points and three rebounds.
Emmanuel Akot and Alex Barcello hardly played, and Barcello missed all four of his field goal attempts, including two wide open 3s.
Arizona had 16 turnovers and nine bench points.
Sean Miller’s postgame thoughts
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire