Arizona and head coach Sean Miller may be under fire this spring, but stress off the court isn’t translating to performance on it.
Deandre Ayton, the Wildcats’ 7-foot 1-inch, 261-pound all-world center and No. 1 reason for NBA commissioner Adam Silver doling out warnings against tanking, was already considered the most dominant force in college basketball.
And now he’s peaking. He had perhaps the best game of his college career Saturday night with a grown-man line of 32 points and 18 rebounds on 14-of-20 shooting from the field to lead Arizona to a 75-61 win over USC in the Pac-12 championship game. There was simply no match for Ayton in a Trojans’ uniform.
A lot of those points came courtesy of highlight-reel dunks.
Like this alley-oop flush from Dylan Smith.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) March 11, 2018
Or this one in traffic from fellow big man Dusan Ristic.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 11, 2018
Not tired of alley-oops yet? How about this one from fellow NBA prospect Allonzo Trier?
Deandre Ayton is a cheat code. pic.twitter.com/XXAKAZ80rJ
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) March 11, 2018
If NBA-ready footwork and touch around the rim is more your speed, well, here you go.
— David Rosen (@sciguyrosen) March 11, 2018
Scoring and rebounding aren’t Ayton’s only strengths. The best dunk of the night may have come from Rawle Alkins, courtesy of this well-timed pass out of the post from a double-teamed Ayton.
He did it all for the Wildcats, and he did it with a smile on his face.
“This is a great feeling,” Ayton told FS1 after the game. “I can’t stop smiling. My cheekbones hurt.”
He’s got every reason to smile. Saturday was Ayton’s second straight 32-point effort after he dropped 32 and 14 rebounds on UCLA in Friday’s Pac-12 semifinal.
Ayton’s playing his best basketball at the right time, working to lock himself in as the likely No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and strike fear into any team standing between Arizona and the Final Four.
Whatever becomes of Arizona’s season on and off the court, there’s no downplaying Ayton’s impact in Tucson.
“I didn’t come here to really ride the coattails of past players,” Ayton told FS1. “I came here to make my own history, leave my own mark on the school.”