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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona able to hold off Golden Bears, survive with 62-57 victory

After a close first half, Arizona was end it on a 7-0 run and take a nine-point lead to the locker rooms at halftime. Arizona never looked back and controlled the second half of the game against the Bears winning 62-57. Freshman Kobi Simmons led the way with 13 points and three assists. Arizona is now 23-3 (12-1 Pac-12).

Even with both offenses shooting the ball well early on, the pace of play and tight defenses made points seemingly hard to come by. The Golden Bears utilized a 2-3 zone defense against the Wildcats offense. Arizona was able to settle in and find their rhythm by getting big men Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche looks down low.

“He’s been coming on for a long time,” Miller said of Comanche’s recent play. “He’s a very, very valuable player on our team. He can score, Dusan can score and those two guys together are really giving us some great minutes right now.”

Ristic scored the Wildcats first four points, and after freshman Lauri Markkanen picked up his second foul and had to head to the bench, Comanche was able to score on a slam dunk. Senior Kadeem Allen liked Arizona’s intensity throughout the night, as well as their “next man up” mentality.

“He stepped up,” Allen said. “We might have been in foul trouble, but Chance stepped up, a lot of people stepped up.”

Arizona was still hesitant to penetrate against the zone so they found another way to beat it: shoot it. Freshman Kobi Simmons hit a pair of 3’s, and Allen knocked down a pair in the half as well.

The Wildcat defense was up to the task of slowing down California sophomore Ivan Raab who came in to the game averaging 15.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Raab was held to just four points and three rebounds.

California was able to come as close as four points in the second half, but the Wildcats had an answer any time the Golden Bears tried to make it interesting.

Points were hard to come by once again and neither team tried to push the pace. With both team’s average possession lasting longer than 20 seconds, just getting an open look was hard to come by for both teams.

The Wildcats were able to have an efficient night shooting the ball, and was the only thing separating them from the Golden Bears. The game was even all across the board, both teams shot 44 percent from the field. The only other difference came in bench points, which Arizona won 25-19. Comanche and Simmons came off the bench and combined for 21 points on the night. Simmons’ all-around performance was crucial for the Wildcats on Saturday night.

“This is one of the best games that he’s played,” Miller said. “We needed him tonight and he delivered. He was confident against the zone in the first half, that’s something that we’ve been talking to him about. He made big plays.”

Comanche’s effect on the game extended past the offensive end. His defense on Raab was crucial to the Wildcat’s game plan down the stretch.

The Bears were able to work the lead down to four with 3:16 to go, but the Wildcats had one final answer. Kadeem Allen deflected a pass and was able to recover it and find Alkins streaking down the court for a breakaway dunk.

It was too much for the Bears to handle, and Arizona held on for the win.

The Wildcats are all alone at the top of the Pac-12 Conference standings now, but Miller has to be able to keep his team grounded, and focused on finishing the season strong.

“We can’t focus on that [being first in the Pac-12],” Miller said. “We just have to take care of what’s ahead of us. I think there’s two incredible teams in this conference in UCLA and Oregon, I don’t know if we’re in that group, hopefully we are.”

Arizona hits the road for the final time this season next week as they head north for matchups with the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars. They square off with the Cougars on Thursday, February 16th at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be aired on FS1.


Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter


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