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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball notebook: Freshman looking for consistency, Wildcats face familiar foe in Vegas

Alex McIntyre
Arizona guard Kadeem Allen (5) fires off a shot against Northern Colorado in McKale Center on Monday, Nov. 21. The Wildcats won the match 71-55.

Arizona defeated Northern Colorado in McKale Center on Monday night to improve to 4-0. Freshman forward Lauri Markkanen is becoming a household name, if he isn’t for Tucsonans by now, and continues to impress. Other freshmen were missing in action, as the upperclassmen continue to be the foundation of this team.

Here are some general takeaways from Monday night and a look ahead to the Thanksgiving day matchup with Santa Clara in the Las Vegas Invitational:

Quiet Markkanen still does more than most

Lauri Markkanen didn’t have any amazing plays, nor did he take over the game at any point. However, what he does continue to do is score at will despite figuring out what amount of aggression he should put toward his offensive game. The answer is simple: The more he shoots, the better Arizona will be.

He leads the Wildcats in just about every offensive category and leads the team in rebounding as well. He is a one-and-done player if we’ve ever seen one—enjoy it while it lasts.

Freshmen curve

The learning curve for freshmen has a tendency to be pretty steep. At points against Northern Colorado, you could hardly notice that Kobi Simmons or Rawle Alkins were even on the floor.

Simmons has the athleticism to play in the NBA right now. His consistency, however, leaves plenty to be desired. Simmons scored 18 against Michigan State, but hit just one shot against Northern Colorado.

Alkins, though a bit more consistent, has yet to find his groove on offense. He has hit shots, penetrated and scored at will, and led a fast-break to a thunderous jam over the Bears on Monday. He just hasn’t done it all in one game.

Simmons and Alkins do a lot on the defensive side, which enables head coach Sean Miller to play them for longer periods of time. But the march to the Final Four may rest on the consistency of that freshman duo.

Here comes that man again

Forty-four points. That is about all you need to say about Jared Brownridge to make the Arizona Wildcats recall their near loss last Thanksgiving to Santa Clara. Well, one year later, the Broncos get another shot at the Wildcats in the Las Vegas Invitational.

“That was a game that we should’ve lost and they know that,” Miller said. “Anytime you have a player that hits for that much, you better be ready. Last year, when it was time to be that guy and stop the best, we had all 12 guys run the other way. This year, I don’t see that.”

Brownridge is averaging 16.8 points per game thus far, but is coming off a 32-point performance versus Sacred Heart. He is fully capable of leading the Broncos to a win, but the Wildcats should be better prepared this time around.

Arizona and Santa Clara tip in Las Vegas at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The game will be aired on Fox Sports 1.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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