In the opening game, Arizona (26-7) outscored UCLA (21-11) 11-0 in overtime to escape with a 78-67 win and advance to the finals. The Wildcats rode their 7-1 freshman center and possible first pick in the NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton to the win. Ayton had one his best performances of the season with 32 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Ayton converted on 13-of-16 shots from the field and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. He made all of his mid-range shots and even connected on his only three-point attempt. Ayton, with a +14 +/- in the game, dominated inside as well and grabbed four offensive rebounds. His counterpart inside Thomas Welch led UCLA with 17 points and 17 rebounds, connecting on 3-of-6 from deep. Aaron Holiday, coming off a 34-point performance yesterday had an off day shooting, hitting only 5-of-20 from the field with 3-of-12 from long distance.
UCLA led in a defensive minded first half, leading 30-26 at the break. Neither team shot well, combining on 7-of-30 on first half three-pointers. Welch has 11 rebounds at the half for the Bruins. Things picked up for the Wildcats in the second half as they ran off a 7-point run at the start of the half, then a 6-point run to take a 44-38 lead. The Bruins battled back, tying the game at 60 on a transition dunk from Keith Wilkes. Jaylen Hands drove the lane to tie the score at 67 and send the game to overtime.
The Wildcats dominated the overtime stanza with Ayton scoring the first seven points. UCLA missed all eight of their shots in overtime, the first seven from long distance.
Arizona survived despite off-shooting nights from stars Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins. They combined to shoot 7-for-27 from the field including 3-of-15 from deep. Dusan Ristic (8 points) was tough inside and grabbed ten rebounds. Point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (11 points) hit 3-of-5 from deep and added four assists against only one turnover. The Wildcats only committed six turnovers over the 45 minutes. Ariz0na had a +9 rebounding advantage in the game after being out-rebounded by nine in the first half.
In the nightcap USC took advantage of an offensively inefficient Oregon team in a 74-54 Trojan victory. USC advances to face Arizona for the tournament title tomorrow night at 7PM. Jonah Matthews led USC with 27 points on 7-of-9 three point shooting while Elijah Stewart added 15. Nick Rakocevic pulled down 11 rebounds.
USC broke this game out in a 17-minute stretch from the mid-point of the first half through the first five minutes of the second half. In that time they outscored Oregon 35-8 and held the Ducks without a made field goal for 10:32. Mikyle McIntosh played decently on offense leading Oregon with 21 points. Elijah Brown added 16 points on four three-pointers. Oregon shot 33 percent including 26 percent (8-of-30) from long distance. The Trojans, on the other hand were efficient on offense connecting on 50 percent from the field and 10-of-23 from deep. Both point points played uncharacteristically poorly. Although USC’s Jordan McLaughlin had nine assists he committed ten turnovers while Oregon’s Payton Pritchard shot 1-for-11.
Oregon has played poorly in the first half of all three games they’ve played here and tonight was no exception. They came out pretty solidly but after an Elijah Brown three-pointer with 11:38 remaining in the half they just managed six points the remainder of the half. They had a scoreless stretch of 5:48.
Meanwhile USC was making shots. Jonah Matthews made 4-of-6 three-pointers and scored 16 first half points. Elijah Stewart went 3-of-3 from deep and added 11 points. USC shot 50 percent on both three and two-point attempts while Oregon shot 25 percent from deep and 29 percent overall. Mikyle McIntosh (11 points) had a good half for Oregon but Las Vegas native Troy Brown Jr. continued his struggles. Brown Jr. shot 2-of-8 in the half (4-of-13 in the game) and committed three first half turnovers (five total).
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