Deandre Ayton continues to prove why he’s widely considered as one of the best big men to pass through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the past decade, adding to his legacy with a 32-point,18-rebound performance in Arizona’s 75-61 over USC to capture the Pac-12 title on Saturday.
“The dominance he just put forth, if there’s another player better, I’d like to meet him,” Arizona coach, Sean Miller, said. “He put his team on his back, played the right way and was absolutely a one-man wrecking crew.”
Ayton put on a show over the course of the Pac-12 tournament, bouncing back from a shaky game in the opener against Colorado.
The 7’1″ center had 32 points and 14 rebounds in a semifinal win over UCLA and easily cruised to a wire-to-wire win over the Trojans in the championship game. Ayton went 14-for-20 from the floor and four-for-four from the free throw line to seal capture the conference title.
“I was a little starstruck, I wasn’t ready, rushing all my shots against Colorado,” Ayton said. “Coach told me to try and face up, see what the defense is giving me and that’s what I did.”
Ayton helped the Wildcats erase a 33-30 halftime deficit with his hot shooting, and kept pouring it on until the final whistle blew. Arizona outrebounded USC 42-19 and had a major scoring advantage on the inside.
Dusan Ristic had 16 points and Parker Jackson-Cartwright had 10 in the win for Arizona.
Nick Rakocevic led the Trojans with 13 points and six rebounds on 6-for-7 shooting from the field.
It’s a good chance the Wildcats will earn a top-four seed, however, USC will have to wait until Sunday for confirmation as it will be in the 28-team field.