Arizona defeated Cal State Bakersfield 78-66 on Tuesday night. Here's a closer look at what happened:
Player of the Game:
Lauri Markkanen - Arizona was led by the seven-footer in this one. Markkanen always seemed to be able to hit a basket when his team needed it, especially down the stretch. The big man finished with a career-high 26 points. Markkanen also almost logged his first double-double as he pulled down eight rebounds in the contest. His presence on the court pushed the Wildcats to victory late in the game.
* Bakersfield jumped out to an early lead, but Arizona was able to overcome a sloppy start and pull back Into the game with a flurry of three pointers. Rawle Alkins hit two and Parker Jackson-Cartwright added one of his own to cut down an early seven-point deficit. Tied at 12, Dusan Ristic put back a missed shot for his first points of the night and the lead. Alkins followed with another three during the Wildcats' 14-2 run.
* It took Arizona a while to get rolling, but the Wildcats were able to break the game open late in the first half with the help of a 7-0 run. Leading 25-21, Chance Comanche hit two free throws and a finger roll in the lane, capped off by a Kobi Simmons three-pointer. Arizona used that advantage to take a 44-26 lead into the locker room.
* With just over thirteen minutes left in the game Bakersfield made a push to get back in the game. The Roadrunners used an 17-0 run aided by three long balls and a flagrant foul from Jackson-Cartwright to cut the Wildcats' lead down to just 53-49.
* At the eight-minute mark in the second half, Arizona finally broke the scoring drought. Comanche hit one of two free throws that he earned after a flagrant foul and then Lauri Markkanen hit a three pointer to push the Wildcats' lead back to 57-49.
* The Wildcats were unable to put the game out of reach until late in the evening. With just over a minute to go in the game, Markkanen hit two free throws to extend Arizona's lead to nine. The Roadrunners got multiple attempts at a shot on the other end of the court and eventually came away with two free throws. Markkanen answered with two more free throws of his own. The Roadrunners missed a quick shot and the Wildcats were able to seal the deal with three more free throws.
Arizona did as well as it could without Kadeem Allen on the court in this one. The Wildcats were forced to play Paulo Cruz meaningful minutes and even went with a lineup of Simmons, Keanu Pinder, Markkanen, Ristic, and Comanche at one point. Depth was a major concern for Arizona and it definitely showed as the game went on. The Wildcats struggled to score in the second half and it led to the disappearance of a 21-point lead.
The Wildcats did get some impressive performances by true freshmen Markkanen and Alkins in order to get some distance on the scoreboard late in the first half, but they settled in a little too much in the second half and it cost them. Arizona was unable to score for six straight minutes in the second half, which allowed Bakersfield to make the game much closer than it should have been.
"We know what we're working with and our confidence is still high," Simmons said. "Lauri's ability to step up was big time tonight. Not surprising to anyone in our locker room. It's what he does."
Sean Miller Quotable:
"We don't have freshmen on this team," Miller said. "What tonight gave us was a good look at what we are going to see in the future and I think we will be better prepared for it."