TUCSON — Allonzo Trier scored 23 points, Deandre Ayton added 20 and No. 11 Arizona avenged its lone loss of the Pac-12 season by beating Colorado 80-71 on Thursday night.
The 7-foot-1 Ayton, expected to be at or near the top of the NBA draft this year, was 12 of 12 at the foul line as the Buffaloes tried to get physical with the big rookie, without much success.
Dusan Ristic added 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting for the Wildcats (17-4, 7-1 Pac-12), who were without forward Rawle Alkins for the second time in three games with a sore foot. He sat out last week’s game at Stanford but played 34 minutes Saturday against Cal.
George King scored 22 points, including 4 of 5 3-pointers for Colorado (12-9, 4-5). McKinley Wright added 15.
Arizona shot 70 percent (16-of-23) in the second half. The Wildcats lost in Boulder 80-77 on Jan. 6.
They were cold Thursday in a first half a first half that ended in a 30-30 deadlock. But Arizona opened the second half with a 15-4 run, ignited by Dylan Smith’s 3-pointer, to go up 45-34 on Ristic’s 16-footer with 15-3 left. The Wildcats stretched it to 53-42 when Ristic made a strong spin move for a layup with 12:41 to play. Colorado coach Tad Boyle drew a technical during the run.
Boyle doesn’t like to play zone defense but it worked in Boulder so the Buffs were using it again Tuesday and it worked for most of the first 20 minutes.
The Buffaloes scored the game’s first eight points and were up 14-4 early.
Arizona, with increasing success in getting the ball to the 7-foot-1 Ayton, slowly caught up and took its only lead of the half 28-26 with 1:18 left. Lazar Nikolic and McKinley Wright each scored to put the Buffs back on top 30-28 before Ristic’s 16-footer at the buzzer tied it at 30-30 at the break.
Arizona for the second time in three games was without guard Rawle Alkins due to foot soreness. He sat out last week’s game at Cal but played 34 minutes three days later at Stanford.
The Buffaloes gave Arizona a tough fight but couldn’t overcome the Wildcats’ size and athleticism. With the steady King, Colorado always will be a threat through the remainder of conference play, though.
The Wildcats had a hard time getting the ball to Ayton but persistence paid off with repeated trips to the foul line. With steady Rustic at his side, it’s a formidable front line for anyone as the big freshman works his way through the final half of his only college season.
Colorado: at Arizona State Saturday night.
Arizona: Hosts Utah on Saturday.