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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona overcomes slow first half to beat Northern Colorado, 71-55

Alex McIntyre
Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) tries to rip the ball away from Northern Colorado guard Jordan Davis (0) in McKale Center on Monday, Nov. 21. The Wildcats won over the Bears 71-55.

Arizona basketball moved to 4-0 on the season by defeating the Northern Colorado Bears 71-55 in McKale Center on Monday night. Freshman Lauri Markkanen once again lead the way for the Wildcats, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Arizona is quickly making a habit of starting games slow. The Bears came out and held the lead more than Arizona did during the first 10 minutes of the half. The Wildcats once again had a decided advantage in the paint, with the Bears tallest listed player coming in at 6-foot-9. 

However, the Bears out-rebounded Arizona in the first half. The points-in-the-paint battle favored the Bears as well, as they outscored Arizona 14-12.

The Wildcats struggled all night to turn things around, and the Bears refused to go away. Northern Colorado did not have a prolific shooting night to stay in it, coming in at a 40 percent clip. It was down low where they stayed in the game. The Bears maintained their rebounding edge and finished the night 35-34 over the Wildcats in total rebounds.

But Markkanen got things going for Arizona, again. After struggling all night with the Bears 2-3 zone, Markkanen hit a pull-up jumper with 11:45 to go in the second half to wake up the McKale Center crowd. It sparked a 7-0 Wildcats run, and they led the rest of the way.

It was another balanced night on offense for Arizona. Sophomore Chance Comanche had 8 points in 11 minutes, freshman Rawle Alkins had 9 points and senior Kadeem Allen added 10 points.

Balance was necessary on a night where the Wildcats shot just 44 percent from the field. They struggled from beyond the arc, going 4-for-16. The 2-3 zone was an issue for head coach Sean Miller’s young team, and he attributed their struggles to lack of experience.

“It’s the first time this year’s team has really gone against the zone,” Miller said. “That first time you really rely on your older guys, and unfortunately for us we have a ton of new faces. We had a deer in the headlights look in the first half, but I liked our execution in the second half.”

Miller has said that he believes this team is able to minimize turnovers, and they did so again against the Bears, turning the ball over just six times. The Wildcats forced 12 turnovers and capitalized to score 12 points off turnovers.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright logged a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists. Jackson-Cartwright has quietly captained the Arizona offense through their first four games. He played his most complete game of the season Monday night, and Arizona needed his effort to pull out another non-conference victory.

“I was just ultra-aggressive,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “My teammates give me confidence every day in practice and in games, so I was just doing what my coaches told me and feeding off of my teammates.”

Miller was pleased with the junior’s performance.

“Tonight was Parker’s best game at Arizona,” Miller said. “Everything he did was important. [Against Sacred Heart and Northern Colorado] he’s 15:1, assist to turnovers. That’s excellent.”

Markkanen starred again for the Wildcats and recorded his first collegiate double-double. He was the catalyst for an offense that struggled throughout most of the night. He played 38 minutes and Arizona needed every single one. 

Miller stated that he needed every minute he got from Markkanen against Northern Colorado’s 2-3 zone.

“He was the perfect guy for us to keep in,” Miller said. “No question. We went with him. With your best players sometimes you have to allow them to play through fatigue. We don’t want to play anyone on our team 38 minutes a game, but there are those games where they’re going to be called on to play more.”

Northern Colorado was picked to finish 11th out 12 in the Big Sky pre-season poll, but Miller knew the Bears would be a challenge for his team.

“The prognosticators and everybody who has an opinion on college basketball has them at het bottom of their conference,” Miller said. “Their coach is one of the best offensive coaches I’ve seen, and guess what, they have a great point guard [Jordan Davis]. He’s a tough guy to defend.”

The Wildcats head to Las Vegas this week where they will compete in the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational. They face Santa Clara on Thursday at 8:30 p.m., on FS1, and will face either Vanderbilt or Butler the following day.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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