Arizona Wildcats

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Ayton scores 24, No. 14 Arizona beats Utah 94-82

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Deandre Ayton scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as No. 14 Arizona never trailed in a 94-82 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The Wildcats (12-3, 2-0 Pac-12) have won nine straight. They started the season 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas.

Rawle Atkins finished with 22 points for Arizona and Parker Jackson-Cartwright added 19.

Sedrick Barefield led Utah (10-4, 2-1) with 23 points and David Collette added 19.

Utah rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie the game late, but couldn’t pull off the upset.

The Wildcats took a 14-point lead into halftime behind the outstanding guard play of Jackson-Cartwright and Atkins and held on in the second half as Barefield tried to shoot the Utes back in the game.

Arizona shut down the interior as its length frustrated the Utah big men. It outrebounded the Utes 46-23.

Barefield scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half and rained down jumpers from around the arc as Utah got within one point, but every time the Utes made a second-half run, Ayton answered on the offensive end. He scored 19 in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: Reigning Pac-12 player of the week Ayton may be a possible No. 1 overall NBA pick, but the Wildcats showed they’re more than the 7-foot-1 big man. The guard play was strong, and that was with the conference’s second-leading scorer Allonzo Trier having a fairly quiet night.

Utah: The Utes regressed in the first half after sweeping Oregon and Oregon State on the road last week, but played with more fire in the second. They were dominated on the interior and Utah will need Collette to play tougher against opponents with size.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Travels to face Colorado on Saturday.

Utah: Hosts No. 4 Arizona State on Sunday

Arizona’s Sean Miller releases statement addressing corruption scandal

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It’s been a week since the news of federal corruption charges upended the college basketball world. Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose staffer member Emanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested as part of the probe, finally has publicly addressed the situation, through a written statement.

“I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson,” Miller said in a statement released by the school. “I have expressed to both (Arizona president) Dr. (Robert) Robbins and our athletic director Dave Heeke that I fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility to not only establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance.

“To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past eight years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

Richardson, who had been at Arizona since 2009, was immediately suspended while Arizona “initiated the dismissal process” after he was charged last week as part of the corruption investigation by the FBI that resulted in the immediate arrest of 10 people, including three other NCAA men’s basketball assistant coaches. Legendary coach Rick Pitino was fired last week by Louisville as part of the fallout of the wide-ranging scandal.

Miller had not publicly commented on the arrest or investigation until the release of the statement Tuesday evening.

Update:

Later Tuesday night Arizona’s athletic director and president both released statements in support of Miller.

President Dr. Robert Robbins, in part:

“Head coach Sean Miller has not been charged with — nor accused of — any misconduct and he has been fully cooperative and supportive of our efforts to determine the facts in pursuit of the truth. In a message that he shared with the community earlier today, Sean expressed his own devastation at the revelations last week and acknowledged his responsibility as the head coach to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations. The tremendous young men in our basketball program deserve our continued support as they work towards the start of the season, and I have complete faith that our passionate fans will continue to show them our love.”

Athletic director Dave Heeke said, “As the leader of the department of athletics, I expect all our student-athletes, coaches and staff to act with integrity and character, and I promise that I, along with our staff, will work tirelessly to ensure this department operates with the highest of ethical standards.

“With basketball practice underway, I ask that you join me in supporting Sean Miller, the staff, and our student-athletes as they work towards the start of the season.”

Five-star big man names final two schools

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There are only two schools in contention for the services of five-star big man Nazreon Reid.

On Friday night, the 6-foot-10 New Jersey native named Arizona and LSU as the two finalists. Before the start of the July live evaluation period, Reid had trimmed his list to seven programs. Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Seton Hall, and UCLA did not make the latest cut.

The Roselle Catholic High School center has ties to commits from both programs. Jahvon Quinerly, who picked Arizona over Villanova earlier this month, played with Reid, winning championships in 2015 and 2016 with Sports U in the Under Armour Association. According to Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com, Reid has developed a friendship with LSU pledge Javonte Smart through USA basketball and the grassroots circuit.

Reid’s commitment will bolster an already star-studded recruiting class for Sean Miller, as Quinerly is accompanied by five-star recruit Shareef O’Neal and four-star guard Brandon Williams. With Dusan Ristic exhausting his eligibility and DeAndre Ayton destined to be a top-10 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, Reid would play a key role down low for the Wildcats during the 2018-19 season.

For LSU, this would add additional momentum for new head coach Will Wade. Since taking over the program in March, Wade has landed commitments from Smart and Tremont Waters.

Reid is listed as No. 13 overall player in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

Five-star point guard picks Arizona

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Arizona just landed the first five-star of its 2018 class and its potential starting point guard for that season.

Brandon Williams, a top-20 recruit, chose the Wildcats on Tuesday over the likes of Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas and USC.

The 6-foot-1 Los Angeles-area native missed much of his junior season after a knee injury required surgery. He’s optimistic, though, that he’ll return to the court this summer and have a full year to prepare before starting his tenure in the collegiate ranks.

Williams will be arriving on campus as current starter Parker Jackson-Cartwright exhausts his eligibility, meaning the Wildcats will an opportunity for Williams to step right in on Day 1.

Arizona previously received a commitment from four-star forward Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille, in its 2018 class. Five-star wing Emmanuel Akot was slated to be part of this Wildcat group, but he re-classed to 2017 in order to join Arizona for this season.

Beyond any joy that comes with landing a five-star recruit, Arizona fans are likely breathing even easier regarding Sean Miller’s potential interest in the Ohio State opening. Miller leaving Arizona, a potential preseason No. 1 team, to take the recently vacated Buckeyes job seemed unlikely immediately after the announcement that Thad Matta would not be retained, but getting a 2018 commitment the caliber of Williams the following day seems to be a pretty strong indicator that the conventional wisdom regarding Miller and the Buckeyes is probably close to being on the money.

Arizona’s Kobi Simmons declaring for draft

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Arizona freshman Kobi Simmons will declare for the NBA and sign with an agent, the school announced Wednesday.

“Kobi Simmons, with the support of his family, has decided to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller in a statement released by the school. “All of us here at Arizona thank him for his freshman season and wish him continued success as he pursues his professional career.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 8.7 points and 2.0 assists per game for the Wildcats with his lone season in Tucson. Currently, he’s projected as a second-round pick in June’s draft by most scouting services.

“I have enjoyed my time at Arizona very much,” said Simmons in a statement. “I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and our great fans for their support and effort in making my year truly a special one. Bear Down.”

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

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Butler put together a fairly dominating performance on Saturday, beating No. 9 Indiana 83-78 in a game they lead by 14 at halftime. Kelan Martin led the way with 28 points for the Bulldogs, who suddenly look like a team that we need to talk about at the top of the Big East this season.

They’re one of just two teams this season to beat the Hoosiers, who own wins over top ten teams North Carolina and Kansas. They’re one of just two teams to beat Arizona this season. They’ve beaten Cincinnati. They’ve beaten Vanderbilt and Northwestern. They won at Utah. Their lone loss on the season came on the road to an in-state rival that will likely finish in the top four of one of the best mid-major leagues in the country.

They have a star in Martin. They have a pair of talented point guards, Tyler Lewis and Kamar Baldwin, who compliment each other so well. Andrew Chrabacsz and Tyler Wideman makeup an underrated front court. Chris Holtmann has proven to be one of the best young coaches in the game.

Look, I don’t think anyone believes Butler is going to win the Big East barring some kind of season-altering injury to Villanova.

But is there really any reason to believe that the Bulldogs can’t finish second in the Big East?

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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THEY WERE GOOD TOO

  • Purdue: The Boilermakers came back from 17 points down in the first half to knock off Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday. Caleb Swanigan was the star, but credit has to be given to Vince Edwards as well. He played his best basketball of the season, finishing with 20 points and 10 boards.
  • Arizona: Give Sean Miller and Arizona credit. This team, with Ray Smith done for the year, Parker Jackson-Cartwright injured and Allonzo Trier out, just keeps winning. On Saturday, they handed Texas A&M a loss in Houston in the Lone Star Shootout, and while Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins all have continued to improve this season, it was Dusan Ristic who was the star on Saturday.
  • Seton Hall: The Pirates landed a key win in their push to get a bid to the NCAA tournament by handing South Carolina their first loss of the season. The Pirates may be without Isaiah Whitehead this season, but they still have a roster full of scrappy, athletic veterans that are not going to back down from anyone. I don’t know if anyone plays as hard as Angel Delgado.
  • Oklahoma State: The Cowboys picked up their biggest win of the season on Saturday, as they went into Wichita and knocked off the Shockers in a dominating performance. Brad Underwood has had this group playing better this season, but this was really the first time that the Pokes have landed a resulted that backs that up.
  • Northwestern: Is this going to be the year that the Wildcats finally make it to the NCAA tournament? They still have a ton of work left to do, but the job got a little bit easier on Saturday as Northwestern knocked off Dayton in the United Center in Chicago. Chris Collins has that team sitting at 9-2 on the season, with the losses coming by a total of six points against Butler and Notre Dame. They’ve beaten Texas, DePaul and Wake Forest already this year, but Dayton has a chance to be a top 25 win come Selection Sunday.