Arizona 7-foot freshman forward Deandre Ayton is considered a likely top-three NBA lottery pick next spring and has drawn comparisons to Kevin Garnett. But heading into Thursday night’s home game with Cal State Bakersfield, Ayton, despite notching a pair of double-doubles, has arguably been only the second best player so far for the fifth-ranked Wildcats.
Junior guard Alonzo Trier was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after scoring 62 points in a pair of home victories over Northern Arizona (101-67) and UMBC (103-78), shooting 64.5 percent from the floor, including 7-of-14 from 3-point range, and also averaging 4.5 rebounds per game. Ayton, meanwhile, simply averaged 19 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his first two college games. Next up is a Cal State Bakersfield squad that won the WAC regular season title a year ago and gave Arizona all it could handle, using a 17-0 second half run to close to within four points, 53-49, before eventually falling, 78-66. “We don’t have to give them a pep talk because Bakersfield pushed us to the brink a year ago, could have beat us at McKale (Center)” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “They went to the NIT Final Four and return quite a few of their players. I’m sure they’ll come in here with a lot of confidence and play hard.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD (1-1): The Roadrunners, coached by former Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes, opened the season with an 88-66 victory over Whittier College but then lost at Georgia Southern, 77-53, on Monday. Four players are averaging in double figures led by freshman guard Jarkel Joiner (12.5 points, 42.9 percent 3-pointers). Damiyne Durham (11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds), swingman Shon Briggs (10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Rickey Holden (10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists) also are averaging in double digits.
ABOUT ARIZONA (2-0): Trier was one of only two players in the NCAA to score 30 or more points in two games over the opening weekend along with Cal’s Don Coleman. Ayton became just the second freshman in Arizona history to begin his career with two double-doubles, joining Aaron Gordon, currently of the Orlando Magic, who did it in 2013-14. Dusan Ristic, a 7-foot senior who joins Ayton on an imposing starting front line, is also off to a hot start averaging 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds.
1. Arizona has a 42-game non-conference home win streak which is the longest in program history and the third longest active streak in the NCAA behind Duke (134) and Baylor (44).
2. The Wildcats have scored 100 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
3. Arizona is shooting 60.3 percent from the floor so far this season including 48.8 percent (20-of-41) from 3-point range.
PREDICTION: Arizona 94, Cal State Bakersfield 69