LAS VEGAS — Sometimes the play that changes the course of a game is subtle. It’s a turnover here or a missed rotation there.
But in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, the momentum-shifting play was impossible to overlook.
With the Arizona Wildcats up 49-46 on USC with just under 10 minutes to play, the T-Mobile Arena burst into mayhem after UA guard Rawle Alkins threw down a thunderous dunk to put the Wildcats up five.
The Trojans had double teamed Deandre Ayton near the baseline, leaving the middle of the lane exposed.
Alkins darted through it, caught an on-target pass from Ayton, elevated and threw down a vicious slam all over USC guard Elijah Stewart.
Rawle Alkins just killed a man pic.twitter.com/t07JdkM0zn— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) March 11, 2018
Ayton, who couldn’t believe what he just saw, ran over to Alkins immediately after the so-called crime had been committed.
“I was like, you need to go to jail for that,” Ayton told Alkins. “There’s no way somebody should get away with that. If you see my reaction on the replay, when he dunked I started running. I sprinted. I turned around the dude was on the floor. I was like ‘oh my God.’
“That was unbelievable. That was some 2K animation-type stuff. Slasher dunks.”
On UA’s next possession, Allonzo Trier threw a lob to Ayton who slammed it home to put Arizona up by seven. Pretty soon the Wildcats were up by 10 and cruising to a 75-61 victory and their second straight Pac-12 Tournament championship.
“It was definitely a momentum changer,” Alkins said of his dunk.
In the locker room after the game, Alkins was asked if his dunk on Stewart was better than the reverse he threw down against Oregon State earlier in the season.
Rawle Alkins just did something that you usually only see in dunk contests pic.twitter.com/3zWAxbw75e— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) January 12, 2018
Alkins wasn’t sure.
“What do you think?” he asked a couple teammates sitting nearby.
“The reverse,” Trier said.
“This one,” said Kory Jones, referring to the dunk vs. USC. “Bigger moment and bigger dunk.”
“Yeah, bigger moment that’s true,” Alkins conceded.
“That’s just Rawle’s favorite dunk,” Trier said of the reverse. “So he was happy to be able to do it in the game. That’s the only reason why he thinks it’s better.”
Rawle Alkins says his thunderous dunk vs. USC was a “momentum changer.” He isn’t sure if it’s his best ever, though. pic.twitter.com/doUDVTYIqg— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) March 11, 2018
Ayton thinks Alkins’ dunk vs. USC was better. No question.
“This one because usually, we all know Rawle, we thought it was going to be a (basic) dunk,” Ayton said.
“But he did this,” Ayton said, cocking his arms behind his head. “I was like ‘what?’ That momentum just took me down the court. … That was amazing.
“It’s what he did in traffic. Nobody expected him to do this,” Ayton said, cocking his arms behind his head again. “I don’t even do that. I just dunk it and get back on defense. But he did that.”
Deandre Ayton on Rawle Alkins’ dunk: “He needs to go to jail for that.” pic.twitter.com/TrEIyyl2Tx— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) March 11, 2018
Alkins didn’t recall Ayton telling him he should go to jail, but they both know what that dunk meant at that point in the game.
“We were just yelling at each other. We were pumped up. We were hyped,” Alkins said. “I don’t remember what we said to each other, but it was just game over.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire