Alkins leads No. 18 Arizona over UConn
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Sean Miller looked at his score sheet and saw Rawle Alkins didn’t have any turnovers.
“Is that right?” he asked after No. 18 Arizona defeated visiting Connecticut 73-58 in McKale Center on Thursday night.
“That’s a big deal because he’s so aggressive. When he’s that aggressive and not turning the ball over, he’s going to get fouled, find his teammates. He really took what the defense gave him.”
Alkins, in his fourth game back from an injured foot that kept him out for the start of the season, finished with a game-high 20 points, adding two steals, an assist and four rebounds.
And he is playing at just 80 percent — not from the injury but what he is capable of, Miller said — upon his return. Miller added the next stretch of games will be the time where “he settles into being the total player that we know who he is.”
Alkins scored at least 20 points for the second time this season.
“It’s not surprising,” teammate Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “It’s a testament to how hard he works. He got hurt and just chips away every day at his recovery and his work ethic is at an all-time high. The guy just wants to win. He takes us to a new level.”
Wildcats junior Allonzo Trier was back in the lineup after getting a scare on Monday, when he sustained a bruised knee after colliding with a North Dakota State player. He missed the final 10 minutes of that game. Trier finished with 15 points Thursday.
“He wasn’t at 100 percent, but he’s not at further risk (of injury),” Miller said. “His defense down the stretch was a reason why we won.”
Terry Larrier led UConn with 18 points. Jalen Adams added 13 points, and Christian Vital had 11 points and seven rebounds.
It was the 47th consecutive nonconference home victory for Arizona (10-3).
Arizona’s Dusan Ristic added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Someone had to step up when (Deandre Ayton) made his second foul in the first half,” Ristic said. “And, tonight, that was me. We’re a deep team. We have a lot of pieces.”
Arizona went on a 23-10 run in the final nine minutes to seal the win.
Connecticut (7-4) gave Arizona a scare, starting the half with a 7-0 run to tie it at 30 with 17:35 left.
Arizona scored three quick baskets, but UConn tied it again at 36 with 16:03 left on two free throws by Mamadou Diarra.
Alkins hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Arizona a 42-38 lead midway through the second half. Arizona hit 7 of 10 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
“Rawle had some open ones that we could’ve ran down and really contested, then Trier, with one from (darn) near half-court,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “So we just need to continue to focus in and do what we have to do, but we can’t give up seven threes ... (and commit) 11 turnovers in the first half. So we got to make sure we take care of the ball.”
Still, every time Arizona would try to pull away, UConn would find a way to stay close. Arizona went up 50-45 with 9:56 left on two Ristic free throws, but the Huskies kept close with 3-pointers by Adams and Vital to close to 52-51 with 7:38 left.
Ristic helped Arizona take a 60-55 lead, grabbing an offensive rebound and throwing it to Jackson-Cartwright for a 3-pointer.
Trier hit a deep 3-pointer to make it 63-55 with 3:50 left, and Alkins had a huge dunk to give Arizona its first double-digit lead of the game.
“We showed some great fight and competed, but it’s not a 35-minute game, it’s a 40-minute game,” Ollie said. “That last five minutes, they got some threes, and we stopped playing the way we did before with poise and playing defense and kind of lost it in that five-minute span. That score is not indicative of how we played, and we’re going to build off the positives and go down to Auburn and try to get one on the road.”
NOTES: Wildcats freshman F Deandre Ayton went into the game as one of only four college players averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds and shooter better than 60 percent from the floor. He failed to reach double figures in scoring for the first time this season, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds. ... Under coach Sean Miller, Arizona is 98-20 in nonconference games. ... UConn played its first game back after an 11-game layoff. The Huskies face Auburn on Saturday. ... UConn’s only other appearance in Tucson was in 2002 when Jim Calhoun coached the Huskies and Lute Olson coached the Wildcats, a battle of Hall of Famers. ... UConn is 23-8 all-time against Pac-12 teams. ... Arizona opens Pac-12 play at home against No. 3 Arizona State on Dec. 30.