Ayton and Wildcats face familiar foe in Pac-12 semifinals
12 March, 2018, 06:25 | Author: Pamela Mathis
By no means are they locks, however.
"I mean, first game, I had some butterflies the first game", said Ayton, who played a season-low 25 minutes in Arizona's opening game of the tournament on Thursday. He went for 32 points and 14 rebounds, with Rawle Alkins contributing with 15 points himself.
The Wildcats never really established consistent dominance this season despite a stacked roster.
"We had a three-point lead at halftime in a Pac-12 championship", USC coach Andy Endfield said. "I thought our defense was good enough to give us a chance to win".
If it weren't for Ayton, Arizona would have been in trouble offensively.
During their last five games, the Wildcats have scored an average of 78.4 points per game (2.8 below their season average) and allowed an average of 70.2 points per game (1.4 below their season average).
"I needed to lock down and change my game in the second half", Ayton said. Okay now that I got that off my chest, back to the matter at hand.
What has held them back this season has been long moments of offensive droughts and mental lapses on defense. A fine array of post moves and excellent touch on his jump hook made him USC's counter to the work done by Arizona's big man. However, at times, backing the Bruins can also be risky as UCLA has a tendency to go through dry spells. We fought all year, and hopefully we can continue to fight here for a couple more weeks. In their one-and-only meeting last month, Arizona dominated the Trojans in what was a fast-paced game.
With it, the Trojans have seemingly played themselves into the NCAA Tournament after this late-season run, particularly after disposing OR with relative ease on Friday night, 74-54.
'Cats Defeat Butler, Advance to Big East Championship Game
Brunson lost control of his dribble, but Bridges scooped it up at the top of the key and hit a hard 3 as the shot clock expired. Leading the way for Butler was Baldwin, who exploded for 32 points, more than double his season average, on 12-20 shooting.
"This was by far our most fluid game of the year". "He's probably the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft".
"He's the best player in the country", Dusan Ristic told reporters after the game. Arizona limited USC to 40.7 percent from the field and 4-for-13 from three in the second half.
Sophomore wing Rawle Alkins led the 'Cats in that game with 20 points and he scored 15 Friday night's win.
"I love playing against great players; I've been doing it all my life", he said. "I was rushing all my shots against Colorado, wasn't taking my time".
At times, it looked as if their lead might wither. The seven footer doesn't appear to have any major flaws in his game, and at the very worst will be a solid National Basketball Association center.
The tale of the tape has the Wildcats winning, but USC wants to pull off something they have only done once: win a conference tournament title. Key turnovers and fast break opportunities were big for the Trojans; they capitalized on every single one.
There, the Trojans will face off against the number one-seeded, Arizona Wildcats. "With all our injuries and the guys out we've had, we're just thrilled to be here", Enfield said.
Arizona realizes the same with USC arguably the second-most talented team in the conference.
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