Arizona improved to 4-0 with a 71-55 win over Northern Colorado on Friday night. Here's a closer look at what happened:
Player of the Game:
Parker Jackson-Cartwright - It was a pleasant surprise to see the point guard play so well in the second half of the game when his team needed him the most. The junior came away with his first career double-double, dishing out 11 assists and scoring 15 points despite being scoreless up to halftime. Jackson-Cartwright also pulled down five rebounds and only turned the ball over a single time in the come from behind victory.
* Both teams traded baskets for a majority of the first half, but it wasn't until late that Northern Colorado started to widen the margin. Trailing 24-20, the Bears used an explosive 9-2 run to jump back in front and get the Wildcats on their heels. Arizona continued to struggle against the zone, but got a tip in from Lauri Markkanen as the buzzer sounded and Northern Colorado went to the locker room leading 31-30.
* The Wildcats again traded baskets to start the second half and it wasn't until a hard foul by Ibrahim Sylla against Kobi Simmons that McKale Center started to show some life. Unfortunately for Arizona, the Wildcats immediately let hop a three pointer and then got called for an offensive foul allowing Northern Colorado to take back a 39-37 lead.
* Just a few minutes later, Arizona finally showed some energy on the court and it paid off. Jackson-Cartwright scored his first points of the game deep in the lane, picking up the foul and hitting the free throw. Markkanen followed it up with two jumpers to fire up the crowd and extend it to a a 7-0 Wildcat run to lead 44-39 with ten minutes remaining.
* With just over four minutes to go in the game, Arizona was able to get a little extra breathing room. Kadeem Allen was able to steal an inbounds pass and take it the length of the court for an easy two. The basket gave the Wildcats a ten point lead heading into the final possessions of the game.
Just one game after playing the best basketball of the season, Arizona followed it up with the worst basketball of the season. The Wildcats struggled mightily on both ends of the court for a majority of the night. Northern Colorado was unable to keep the intensity up late in the game and that was ultimately the deciding factor, but Arizona could very easily have lost the game.
The Wildcats didn't shoot the ball particularly well and outside of Jackson-Cartwright and Markkanen, Arizona didn't seem to have a lot of energy for a majority of the game. Markkanen was his usual self in the win, notching his first career double-double as well. While Markkanen was also very key to Arizona's success, he was slightly outshined by the point guard in the win.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"It's the first time this year's team has really gone against a zone," Miller said. "That first time you really rely on your older guys and, unfortunately for us, we have a ton of new faces, so we had a deer in the headlights look."
"I was just ultra-aggressive," Jackson-Cartwright said. "My teammates give me confidence every day, in practice and in games. I was just doing what my coaches told me and feeding off my teammates' energy."