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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball: Defense and rebounding a concern

Simon Asher
Arizona guard Rawle Alkins scrambles stumbles past a Cal State Chico defender on Sunday, Nov. 6 in McKale Center.

Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson couldn’t score the way Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen can, but they sure could rebound. Rebounding, especially on the defensive end, may hamper Arizona early on this season.

The Wildcats ranked first in the Pac-12 Conference in defensive rebounding last season and second in offensive rebounding. The lack of frontcourt depth was apparent again Sunday night against Chico State, but head coach Sean Miller figures to be getting help come Friday night.

Miller announced that sophomore center Chance Comanche should return Friday, and the coaching staff will rely on him to help in the rebounding sector.

“With Chance, we’re a much different team,” Miller said. “You can’t underestimate a 6-foot-11 offensive and defensive rebounder.”

Chico State out rebounded the Wildcats 30-28 in Arizona’s second and final exhibition of the season. After surrendering 16 offensive rebounds to an overmatched College of Idaho squad, Arizona gave up seven more against Chico State. The College of Idaho only scored 35 points, leading to plenty of opportunities for offensive boards. So while giving up seven seems like an improvement, Chico State did much more scoring than Arizona’s first opponent.

After combining for 19 rebounds against the College of Idaho, Ristic and Markkanen brought down only 10 boards against Chico State, and only three of those rebounds came from the starting center, Ristic. Chico State was able to control the game down low at times, and Michigan State certainly has more firepower inside than Chico State.

Expect the Spartans’ star freshman Miles Bridges to go right after Markkanen and Ristic early on. Markkanen recorded zero rebounds in the first half Sunday in McKale Center, and will have to do better against Michigan State to keep Arizona in the game down low.

Arizona ranked third in scoring defense in the Pac-12 last year. That number could fall as well. The Wildcats have become known for their defense during the Miller era, but without a true defensive anchor in the starting lineup, they could be exposed down low. Getting Comanche back needs to have the impact Miller expects, or Arizona will struggle on the glass.

Related: Wildcats win final exhibition game; Up next Michigan State

Senior Kadeem Allen netted 15 points and four assists against Chico State and has been Arizona’s defensive leader. Allen was Arizona’s best player through both exhibition games, and Miller likes his combination of experience and toughness.

“Kadeem is awesome,” Miller said. “He is our heart and soul in many ways, certainly the leader of our team. His experience, his leadership, his toughness, those are all things that are going to help this team through our long journey.”

The exhibition season is officially over and Arizona will kick off the college basketball season Friday night in Honolulu. With a brand new starting five, Arizona will be under the bright lights to begin the season and not even Miller knows what to expect.

“We won’t know until we get there, that’s the hard part,” Miller said. “We don’t have an experienced team, so we’ll learn a lot about these guys once we get [to Honolulu].”

In recent years, no Arizona team has come in to a season with more question marks. Whether or not the answers to these questions are positive or negative remains to be seen.

Follow Chris Deak on Twitter.

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