Our full recap can be found here, and here are some additional takeaways from the game:
Allonzo Trier had a bounce-back game — and he has a chip on his shoulder
Trier ended the regular season with arguably the worst game of his career, tallying a career-low 2 points on 1-of-10 shooting in the finale vs. Cal.
He didn’t get down about it.
“It was just one day where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Trier said. “The most important thing was closing out the season, winning at McKale, winning an outright Pac-12 Championship. But I didn’t lose confidence one bit.”
Trier shook that tough night off and responded with one of his best on a big stage, dropping 22 points on just nine shots against Colorado. Trier was 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
The junior is now averaging 19.0 points per game with an absurd shooting line of .524/.404/.846. Trier is one of just three players in college basketball to have a 50-40-85 line this season.
Yet, Trier is not a finalist for the Jerry West Award, which is given to the nation’s top shooting guard. (I looked at the numbers the other day, and he definitely should be.)
Why didn’t he make the cut?
“I don’t know,” Trier said. “If you go look at my numbers, I think (they) speak for (themselves). I think I should have won the award if anything. But it’s all good.”
Because Trier plans to use the omission as motivation as he wraps up his final year of college basketball.
“You saw what I did today,” he said after the win against Colorado. “Watch what I go do the rest of the season, too.”
Arizona survived without Ayton
Sean Miller has said Arizona goes as Deandre Ayton goes, but luckily for the Wildcats that wasn’t true Thursday.
Ayton had just 10 points and 6 rebounds on 4-of-14 shooting, and fouled out late in the second half. It was the first time the 7-footer did not have a double-double in nearly a month.
“Even somebody like DeAndre, who is immensely talented as a young player, it takes time to really learn what it feels like to play on the road, what it feels like to play in conference play,” Miller said. “Tonight is what it feels like to play on a neutral court in March.”
But Arizona was OK because it has another 7-footer it can turn to in Dusan Ristic, who posted 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“[Ayton] and Dusan have really forged a great relationship on the court. I think they play off each other very well,” Miller said. “They’re both unselfish. I think you have to pick your poison, so to speak, in defending them, because both of them have proven that they’re very productive and very different.”
Ristic had a personal 6-0 run that allowed Arizona to extend its lead from 46-41 to 52-41 with 10:45 left. The Buffaloes were unable to cut their deficit below 10 from that point on.
“Teams really try to double team me and Dusan down low, but seeing him fight through all that contact and making big plays like that really sparks a fire,” Ayton said.
Like Trier, Ristic struggled in UA’s regular season finale, tallying just six points on 1-of-9 shooting.
Also like Trier: those struggles were an anomaly. Ristic had scored in double figures in 12 of his last 13 games.
“He understands this is the last time he’s going to go down this road,” Trier said. “He’s playing his best basketball, being a senior, playing with a lot of confidence. When he’s playing with confidence, it gives us confidence and belief in our basketball team.
“So we need everybody to be sharp, and Dusan’s been on top of his game, which has been a very big part of why we were able to win a Pac-12 Championship and why we were able to win tonight.”
As far as Ayton goes, Ristic is confident his frontcourt partner will rebound Friday.
“It could be a good thing for us because tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll have Deandre back and he’s gonna play much better tomorrow than he did today,” Ristic said.
“We’ve played here for four years and when something like that happens, I get emotional.”
As the game got out of reach midway through the second half, Dominique Collier’s frustration boiled over when he grabbed Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s leg near mid-court to prevent the UA point guard from pushing the ball in transition.
That malicious play by Collier led to a skirmish with Dusan Ristic which resulted in a Colorado technical foul.
“I saw Collier grab Parker’s foot. I got mad. It was a cheap foul,” Ristic said. “Obviously Parker is my brother. We’ve played here for four years and when something like that happens, I get emotional.”
That type of brotherhood seems to be a common theme in Arizona’s locker room.
Trier talked about his bond with Ayton when both had off-the-court issues a couple weeks ago (Trier’s PED suspension and Ayton being linked to ESPN’s wiretap report).
”I know that when he was going through the tough time, I was going through the tough time with him,” Trier said.
“Obviously he was playing, but for him to be caught up in something that was false is probably frustrating for a kid. We just did our best to stay together. I was in his corner, he was in my corner, and we were just waiting it out.”
The game would have been different with a healthy McKinley Wright
Arizona had difficulty slowing down Colorado in its first two matchups against the Buffaloes, as Colorado shot 54 percent or better, but the Wildcats flipped the script Thursday.
Colorado shot just 42 percent from the field and 5-of-20 from 3. The Buffaloes committed 15 turnovers, too.
But CU was also without McKinley Wright IV for most of the second half, as he was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Miller knows that made a difference.
“Obviously when McKinley Wright went down, that certainly hurt them,” he said. “But I really liked our defense, especially in the second half. Eleven steals might be a season high. We had plenty of transition opportunities because of our defense, and that’s when we’re at our best.”
The Wildcats will face another team that’s had success against their defense Friday when they face UCLA. The Bruins beat Arizona in Tucson back in February, and took down Stanford 88-77 in the quarterfinals.
Aaron Holiday had 34 points. Our Matt Sheeley outlined Arizona’s keys to Friday’s rematch here.
McKale Center Junior
About 75 percent of the fans in attendance for the Arizona-Colorado game were decked out in red rooting for the Wildcats.
There was only a small section of Buffalo fans.
The term “McKale North” is already taken — thanks, ASU — so Rawle Alkins came up with a different nickname for the UA-friendly T-Mobile Arena.
McKale Center Junior.
“Every game is like a home game for us,” Alkins said. “We appreciate it. We’re honored to have the best fans in college basketball.”
CU coach Tad Boyle was asked if Arizona’s proximity to Las Vegas gives it a geographical advantage for drawing fans, but he disagreed — sort of.
“No. I mean, look, their fans travel well,” he said. “Since we’ve been in the league, they’ve led the league in attendance at home every single year. So their fans travel well. They’re very passionate.
“But Vegas is an easy place to get to, and it’s a place that any fan can get to really. Now, they can maybe drive, so that’s a little bit more of an advantage.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire