Arizona won its opening round game against North Dakota 100-82 to advance. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Player of the Game:
Rawle Alkins - The freshman played one of his best games as a Wildcat on Thursday night. Alkins finished the game with 20 points, while hitting all eight of his shots. The forward also pulled down four rebounds and led Arizona with five assists. He is starting to peak at the right time and was a vital cog in the Wildcats being able to pull away from the Fighting Hawks.
* Arizona trailed 12-11 early on in the game, but used a 7-0 run to pull ahead and settle into a small lead. Parker Jackson-Cartwright hit a three-pointer on his first attempt of the night while Allonzo Trier and Chance Comanche were able to get easy buckets to extend the lead.
* The Fighting Hawks got a free-throw to stop the run, but the Wildcats weren't going to be halted there. Keanu Pinder scored from the center of the Hawks' 2-3 zone before Jackson-Cartwright found Kadeem Allen in transition for a bucket. The point guard got some good karma for the assist as he was able to get to the rim easily on the next possession for an easy lay in and a 24-13 lead.
* North Dakota came out fired up in the second half and cut the Wildcats' lead down to seven at 68-61. Arizona stemmed the tide by going on a scoring run with 12 straight points. Allen had been slowed with foul trouble for most of the game, but was able to take over, scoring seven points during the stretch that put Arizona up 80-61 with eight minutes to go in the game.
The Wildcats actually got pretty lucky with their first round draw as I don't think there was ever any feeling that North Dakota could hang with Arizona. The issue comes with the fact that the Fighting Hawks never went away despite being down by double-digits most of the game. Arizona's defense was not good for most of the game and flat out bad the rest of the time. With a second-round match-up with St. Mary's on Saturday, the defensive play is a big cause for concern. The hope here is that the Wildcats have gotten the bad play out of their system, but the next round may be a battle.
For Arizona to move on in the tournament, it is going to need better play from Trier. He finished with a respectable point total, but didn't shoot well from the floor. The Wildcats are only going to go as far as Trier and Markkanen can take them. The Finn was on his game, as evidenced by the 20 points and six rebounds against North Dakota, but they both need to be on against the Gaels.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"First round of a NCAA tournament, you would expect freshmen to have a struggle," Miller said. "Lauri and Rawle were our two best players tonight. And in Rawle's case, it might have been his best game he's played at Arizona."
"I would probably say that Coach Miller and Lauri and the rest of us, we just wanted -- this is our first feeling in the NCAA tournament for me and Lauri and Kobi, and we just want to play hard and show we belong here," Alkins said.