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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball takes its talents to Los Angeles in rematch with No. 8 Gonzaga

Courtesy Mike Christy
Arizona Wildcats guard Kadeem Allen (5) drives as Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) chases to defend during the first half of the No. 19 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 13 Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s NCAA college basketball game at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Arizona used a second-half comeback to win 68-63.

The No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs are set to take on the No. 16 Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team Saturday in the Hoophall LA game presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“Arizona is a tremendous program and we have a great relationship with them,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “[Arizona head coach] Sean [Miller] is known for having tough defensive teams and this team is so long and athletic, it will be a great challenge.”

The Zags go into the game winners of their last seven, including a win over No. 21 Iowa State. Each Bulldogs starter is averaging double-digits in scoring this season. Wildcat fans may remember Nigel Williams-Goss, a Washington transfer, who leads the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds per game.

Gonzaga has had a long history with Arizona, going back to a second-round defeat in the NCAA Tournament in 2003. The more recent loss for Gonzaga came last year in Spokane, when they blew a double-digit lead to lose 66-63 at home.

Arizona comes into Saturday’s game depleted after losing point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright to a high ankle sprain during a win against Texas Southern on Wednesday. The Wildcats will have to lean heavily on lone senior Kadeem Allen and his defensive presence against the Bulldogs’ multi-talented backcourt.

“Oh, we’ll be ready,” Allen said. “This game, you have to get your big boy pants on.”

Allen will also rely on his freshman teammates to help him out. Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins are the three leading scorers for Arizona and combine for over 42 points per game. In order for Arizona to come out with a win, its defensive ability—mainly staying out of foul trouble—will have to be at a high level. Foul trouble plagued Arizona against Butler in Las Vegas when Markkanen fouled out with over three minutes left in the game.

Gonzaga prides itself on transition baskets and outside shooting, but Arizona’s length should give the Bulldogs something they haven’t yet seen this year. Arizona center Chance Comanche will be key in the low post, and Markkanen’s flexibility on the defensive end should play in the Wildcats’ favor.

This game will be played as part of a double header, featuring USC and BYU in the nightcap. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m., to be televised on ESPN.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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