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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Too close for comfort, but No. 17 Arizona holds off late run from Colorado

Alex McIntyre

Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen snags a rebound after a failed shot by Sacred Heart in McKale Center on Friday, Nov. 18. 

No. 17 Arizona moved to 15-2 (4-0) on the season after defeating the Colorado Buffaloes 82-73. Freshman Lauri Markkanen led Arizona in scoring with 22 points and six rebounds.

The matchup with the Buffaloes marks the 17th game of the 32 scheduled (including one game for the Pac-12 tournament) for Arizona. Amidst wide speculation that sophomore standout Allonzo Trier was returning to the lineup tonight, he was once again dressed in street clothes and not participating in the contest.

After Arizona center Dusan Ristic connected on 1-of-2 free throws to start off the game’s scoring the Buffaloes came out firing. They went on a 10-0 run after the Ristic free throw, and head coach Sean Miller burned his first timeout under four minutes in to the first half.

Whatever Miller said to his team certainly woke them up.

Arizona was able to outscore the Buffaloes 38-17 throughout the rest of the half. The Buffs hot start continued until the 13-minute mark, when they held an 18-10 lead, but they managed to connect on just three more field goals in the rest of the first half.

The Wildcats went on a 19-4 run over the span of nine minutes, and the Buffaloes were unable to make any type of recovery before the first half concluded.

The game was beginning to look like a runaway for the Wildcats early in the second half, but The Buffaloes were able to recover and shoot 52 percent (17-of-33) in the half.

Colorado was able to bring a once 20-plus point lead down to seven with 4:24 to go, and the McKale Center crowd was forced to their feet to try and will on the Wildcats.

Arizona’s efficient night at the free throw line made all the difference in the games final three minutes, as the Buffaloes were able to bring it within five multiple times during that span.

Arizona committed untimely turnovers that contributed to the Buffaloes’ big run, and Miller attributed their run to how hard they played. Ristic committed a turnover late in the second half where he, a center, tried to execute a pass from the frontcourt to the backcourt and it resulted in a turnover and a bucket for the Buffaloes. Miller said he hadn’t seen such a play in his “48 years on this planet.”

“That was one of four or five plays there that sparked a comeback,” Miller said. “It took away from our performance because we really had a commanding lead.”

Once again for the Wildcats, junior Parker Jackson-Cartwright was able to play his best in crunch time. With 2:38 to go Arizona had only a five-point lead with Jackson-Cartwright at the stripe. He knocked down both attempts but Colorado responded with a jumper to get it back to five, but Jackson-Cartwright came down the court and scored on the second straight possession to ice the game.

Arizona had four players finish in double figures, Markkanen (22), Ristic (17), senior Kadeem Allen (18), and freshman Rawle Alkins (10).

Markkanen was restricted to playing just 22 minutes on the night due to foul trouble. After picking up his fourth with a little over ten minutes to play, Miller was forced to take out the hot hand and it a clear affect on the Wildcats. Markkanen finished the night with 22 points on 6-12 shooting, and hit four of his five three-point shots. The Finnish sensation was certainly having “one of those nights” and was on fire during pre-game warm-ups. When asked if there’s some nights when he knows he’s “on”, the freshman claimed there’s really no difference in how he feels in warm-ups.

“I made those shots today but I don’t think there’s a big difference between being off and on,” Markkanen said.

Allen scored a career-high 18 points and was 9-11 from the free throw line. He grabbed four rebounds and four assists, and led all Arizona players with a +/- of 20. Miller called Allen the best player on the floor against the Buffaloes, and even more so than his career-high in scoring, it was the defense he played on the Buffaloes’ Derrick White.

“It was one of the best games I’ve seen a guard play since I’ve been at Arizona,” Miller said. “What he did against Derrick White–he’s had his way with virtually every team he’s played–I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone play better defense against a better opponent more than he did.”

Miller went on to compare Allen to other defensive greats such as Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Nick Johnson and TJ McConnell.

“He’s right there as the best,” Miller said. “The difference between Kadeem and them is that he is surrounded by a young group. His effort tonight on the ball, off the ball, he was fantastic.”

Arizona continues Pac-12 play next Thursday when they face the Arizona State Sun Devils in the McKale Center at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be aired on ESPN or ESPN2.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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