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Deandre Ayton’s career-high 32 leads Arizona to Pac-12 Tournament final

Arizona's Deandre Ayton (13) celebrates after scoring during overtime in the team's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. Arizona won 78-67. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Like many of their games throughout the season, Arizona’s semifinals matchup against UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament came down to one thing.

One team has Deandre Ayton and the other does not.

Ayton was spectacular, scoring a career-high 32 in the Wildcats’ 78-67 overtime win, carrying them to the final.

The super freshman was unstoppable all night, finishing 13-of-16 from the field with 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s becoming in talks for the National Player of the Year,” his teammate Rawle Alkins said after the game. “He should be Player of the Year in the country. I don’t see anyone playing better than him right now.”

If it wasn’t for Ayton, the Bruins would have likely come out on top. It was an extremely competitive game throughout, as leads bounced back and forth before the game was tied at 60 with 4:52 to go.

From there, Arizona was up one with 2:11 to go when Ayton’s bucket assisted by Dusan Ristic made it a 65-62 Wildcat lead.

Thomas Welsh answered for the Bruins, hitting a huge 3-pointer to make it a tie game.

Ayton would score again, and after Arizona failed to extend its lead following a turnover by Aaron Holiday with under 35 seconds to go, Jaylen Hands made a spectacular play, driving into the lane and finishing over three defenders to tie the game at 67 with nine seconds remaining.

Arizona’s play to win the game was messy, as Alkins traveled right before shooting a jumper, and Holiday’s miss as time expired would bring overtime.

That’s when Ayton made sure to lock up the game.

He scored the first seven points of the period, making it 13 straight Wildcat points scored by Ayton.

“He’s a great player,” Welsh said after the game of Ayton. “He’s just a really big guy. Takes up a lot of space and the skill down there as well.”

UCLA wouldn’t score in overtime and that locked in a Pac-12 Tournament championship game appearance for Arizona.

“Tonight was certainly one of our best wins of the season, and it’s because we played against a terrific team in UCLA,” head coach Sean Miller said after the game.

Arizona will take on the winner of USC and Oregon on Saturday at 8:00 p.m.


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