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Arizona pulls away late to beat UConn 73-58 in non-conference finale

Deandre Ayton had an off night, but the supporting cast stepped up

Connecticut v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats used timely 3-point shooting to pull away from the pesky UConn Huskies in a 73-58 win on Thursday in Tucson.

Leading just 54-53 with 7:11 left, the Wildcats drilled a trio of 3s as part of a 19-5 run to pick up their seventh straight win in their non-conference finale.

Rawle Alkins, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and Allonzo Trier were the shotmakers, and Alkins and Trier later punctuated the win with a pair of dunks.

Alkins, who finished with 20 points and four rebounds, took a shoulder to head early in the second half that shook him up, but he quickly returned to the game and caught fire, scoring 14 points in the period, including three 3s.

“They went zone tonight and he answered the bell on almost every possession,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.

Trier, who was limited by a knee injury he suffered Monday, had 15 points on 5-11 shooting in 35 minutes.

Deandre Ayton failed to score in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, as he dealt with foul trouble and double teams, but Dusan Ristic picked up the slack and then some, tallying 18 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.

“That might have been one of his best games ever at Arizona,” Miller said.

The 7-footer was 6-9 from the field and 6-9 from the line.

“Obviously somebody had to step up when picked up that second foul in the first half and tonight that was me,” Ristic said.

Arizona (10-3) never trailed in the game, but its seven-point halftime lead was erased by the Huskies who opened the second half on a 7-0 run.

Alkins hit back-to-back 3s to give the UA a 42-38 lead and the Wildcats never surrendered that lead, though the Huskies did make it a one-point game several times.

Terry Larrier (18 points) and Jalen Adams (13) each scored in double figures for the Huskies, but Adams was only 5-16 from the field.

Arizona shot 50 percent while UConn shot 41 percent. Arizona made seven 3s in the second half, finishing 9-19 from that range.

UConn was 5-13 from behind the arc and outrebounded Arizona 33-29, allowing it to keep the game close with a 15-9 edge in second-chance points.

Arizona led 30-23 at the break after 20 ugly minutes of basketball that featured nearly as many turnovers (19) as made field goals (20).

Ristic led the Wildcats with 10 points and six rebounds in the period. Alkins and Trier each had six points, and Ayton was limited to three points and three rebounds as he picked up two early fouls.

Ayton banked in a 3 to put Arizona up 7-2 then worked through a double team to find Dylan Smith in the corner who drilled a 3 to extend UA’s lead to 10-2.

Ayton, doubled or tripled on every touch, finished with a team-high five assists, despite playing just 27 minutes.

“He had a couple tough calls go against him tonight, but his passing is very understated,” Miller said.

“He had five assists, but I’m not so sure that all five of his assists weren’t 3s. His value might have been 15 points right there. It’s hard to double team him. Dusan benefits from that and all of our perimeter players benefit from that. We had a couple shots that we missed that he passed out, but they threw everybody at him. The kitchen sink.”

UConn would tie the game at 11 at the 11:12 mark, but Arizona responded with a 10-2 run to re-take a 21-13 lead that was capped off by a Keanu Pinder dunk on an assist from Smith.

That tied for Arizona’s largest lead in the half, but the Huskies roared back and a three-point play by Christian Vital cut UA’s lead to 25-23 with 2:19 left.

Arizona scored the final five points of the period, including a fallaway jumper by Ristic to lead by seven at the break.

Arizona is off until Dec. 30 when it hosts No. 3 ASU to open Pac-12 play.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire