Arizona advances for a date with Xavier after a 69-60 win over Saint Mary's. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Player of the Game:
Lauri Markkanen - The freshman wasn't a major force in the first half, but came alive in the second half. The big man scored a team-high 16 points and collected 11 rebounds for the double-double. In addition, Markkanen took a poor first half performance to heart and helped slow down Jock Landale in the second half. He blocked two shots and altered a few more while leading the Wildcats to victory.
* Arizona did not play well for the first 15 minutes of the game, trailing by as many as ten, but the Wildcats picked it up and went into the locker room trailing 30-29. Arizona didn't lead in the first half, but picked up the first lead of the game right out of the gate as a Dusan Ristic hook shot put the Wildcats up 31-30.
* The Gaels and the Wildcats battled back and forth with each team trading leads with each other for most of the second half, but Arizona started to build a little bit of a cushion with ten minutes remaining in the game. Allonzo Trier struggled to get going early, but scored seven straight points on his own, including a three, an off-balance shot, and two free throws. The scoring run put Arizona up 51-46.
* One of the biggest plays of the game came with just under four minutes remaining. Saint Mary's guard Joe Rahon found Tanner Krebs in the corner for a three that cut the Arizona lead down to three. On the ensuing trip down the court, Parker Jackson-Cartwright found Lauri Markkanen in the corner for a three of his own. It was the first long ball of the game for the Finn and it was a huge shot.
* Saint Mary's wasn't going away though. With 1:51 remaining in the game, Calvin Hermanson hit a three-pointer off a screen and the Gales called a timeout trailing just 65-60. Saint Mary's laid on the pressure and forced a turnover. Unfortunately for the Gaels, a missed shot and a questionable call on the rebound put Trier at the line for two. He made both and Markkanen blocked a shot on the other end to essentially seal the win.
The Wildcats didn't play a pretty game and the first half went about as bad as it could for Arizona. Rawle Alkins left the game with a finger injury, Allen picked up two fouls, and Saint Mary's won the rebounding battle by one. Things looked bleak at times and yet Arizona only trailed by one at halftime. Despite all of that, the Wildcats found a way to stay in the game. The second half went better and Arizona came out of it with a win. In March, it doesn't matter how you win, just that you win and advance, and that's what the Wildcats did.
With that being said, Arizona likely does not move on without Alkins returning to the game. His defensive intensity and motivation to get to the rim on offense helped immensely. He only finished with six points and two rebounds, but there was an energy around him that was unmatched by any of his teammates. It didn't turn out to be a key moment in the the grand aspect of things, but Alkins, injured hand and all, stopped a three-on-one break all by himself during a time in which Saint Mary's was looking to get back into the game. His effort should not go unnoticed.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"Our advantage was driving," Miller said. "Our advantage I think eventually was to be able to get the ball inside. I think getting the ball to the basket, whether it be on drive or post catch, we delivered. We scored. We got fouled. I think that was the big difference."
"We know coming into this game we had to be the most physical, grinding, and get the most rebounds," Kadeem Allen said. "Going into halftime we know we weren't playing our best basketball in the first half. Coming in the second half we kept confidence and kept playing the game, and just kept battling it out."