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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats win final exhibition against Chico State: Up next Michigan State

Arizona+guard+Kobi+Simmons+shoots+up+against+Cal+State+Chico+defense+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+6+in+McKale+Center.
Simon Asher
Arizona guard Kobi Simmons shoots up against Cal State Chico defense on Sunday, Nov. 6 in McKale Center.





It wasn’t pretty and it left a lot to be desired, but the Arizona men’s basketball team won its last exhibition game over the visiting Chico State Wildcats, 78-70, despite looking shaky throughout the game.

Chico State came out and dictated the tempo, jumping to a 29-17 lead halfway through the first half. Forward Isaiah Ellis and guard Robert Duncan—the CCAA Player of the Year a season ago—both contributed nine points apiece to lead Chico State’s offensive attack.

“Chico State is a good Division II team and [it] came out and punched us in the mouth,” Arizona senior guard Kadeem Allen said. “We were playing slow in the first half, so we had to come out in the second half and turn it around.”

Arizona finally established itself, led by freshman Kobi Simmons’ defensive effort which energized the Wildcats and sparked a 16-0 run that would see Arizona take back the lead. Lauri Markkanen, seemingly the only player to hit from long range right now, hit two 3s for Arizona and led all scorers with 10 points in the half.

Related: Defense and rebounding a concern for Wildcats

Despite Markkanen’s shooting, Chico State was still able to remain in the game due to rebounding and defense, beating Arizona on the boards 17-10 in the first half and taking a 40-37 lead into halftime.

“Every game is a good preparation for us,” Markkanen said. “We’re just trying to concentrate on doing what we do.”

Chico State stayed within striking distance throughout the second half by hitting several NBA range 3-pointers by Duncan and fellow guard Corey Silverstrom. But Arizona freshman Rawle Alkins and Markkanen scored on a series of offensive plays to boost the Arizona lead to 65-60 with 6:25 to play.

Silverstrom was a thorn in Arizona’s side, scoring 15 points on the night. The trio of Ellis, Duncan and Silverstrom combined for 47 of Chico State’s 70 points.

Markkanen was the key player of the night, scoring 21 points and bringing in seven rebounds. Alongside center Dusan Ristic, the two big men combined for 35 points and 10 rebounds on the evening.

“The coaches keep telling me to be more aggressive both in driving to the basket and shooting when I have the chance, so I am trying,” Markkanen said. “It is hard when you are trying to learn three positions all at the same time to know when to shoot.”

Arizona head coach Sean Miller said he expects center Chance Comanche to return after serving a two-game suspension due to academic issues. That should help the Wildcats both on defense and in the rebounding department where they’ve had their biggest shortcoming.

“If everything goes well these next two days, he will join us in Hawaii. I expect that to happen,” Miller said. “With Chance, we’re a much different team. You can’t underestimate a 6-foot-11 offensive rebounder—defensive rebounder who has the ability to give us great size and depth up front. Playing without him, any team would miss that.”

The regular season begins now for the Wildcats as they take on Michigan State for a neutral-site matchup in Hawaii this Friday.

“It’s exciting, it’s the first game of college basketball this Friday and we’re ready for the challenge,” Allen said. “Everyone has a bigger role now, everyone has to step up. We’re going to have to compete and go hard on the court.”


Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

Video Courtesy of Pac-12 Networks.


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