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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona cruises over Hurley, Sun Devils 91-75

Simon Asher

UA’s Chance Comanche (21) shoots among ASU’s defense on Jan. 12. UA came out on top against ASU, with a score of 91-75.

It was embarrassment of riches for the Wildcats against the Sun Devils. Freshman Lauri Markkanen had a personal three-point shooting contest, Rawle Alkins had a dunk party, and Dusan Ristic continued to put on efficiency clinics in the paint.

No.16 Arizona improved to 16-2 overall (5-0 Pac-12 Conference) with a 91-75 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils.

It didn’t take the long for the Wildcats, and the McKale Center crowd, to make the Sun Devils feel farther away from home than they really are.

The energy in the arena was noticeably different than it had been in the past month because of the return of the Zona Zoo. Much of the crowd directed their jeers at Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, whose comments this energized the rivalry matchup to another level.

The Wildcats fed off the energy in the building, and bolted out to a 9-0 lead to start the game forcing Hurley to use a timeout with 18:05 to go in the first half. It was as loud as the McKale Center has gotten so far this season, and head coach Sean Miller believes that the Wildcats have the best home court advantage in the country.

“It’s great to have our students back,” Miller said. “The electricity, the way McKale felt here tonight I’d have a hard time believing there’s a better arena in the country, and I mean all of them. We’re very fortunate to have that.”

The Sun Devils were able to weather the Wildcats’ early flurry, but eventually the Wildcats mismatch in talent was too much for them to handle.

With 10 minutes to play and the score 20-12, the Sun Devils were in a position to make a run. Markkanen had other plans.

The Finnish star hit three consecutive three-point shots on Arizona’s next three possessions, and the floodgates were open. Alkins soared through the air for two highlight reel alley-oops that had McKale Center on its feet, and the Wildcats found themselves up by 20 points at halftime.

“Lauri was spectacular tonight,” Miller said. “He is above and beyond what a freshman should be, he’s obviously an incredible offensive player who’s improving on defense as well.”

The Sun Devils found their stroke in the second half. After going 0-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, they started the second half 5-7 from range and 7-9 overall from the field. They finished the half shooting 57 percent (17-30) but it would not be enough to mount a comeback against the Wildcats.

Arizona had one of their best shooting nights of the season. They went 34-60 (57%) from the floor and 9-21 from deep.

The Wildcats offensive efficiency came from multiple aspects of the offense. The frontcourt combination of sophomore Chance Comanche and Ristic accounted for 25 points on 10-13 shooting. The other part of Arizona’s big offensive night came from their usual source, Markkanen.

Markkanen dropped a career-high 30 points against the Sun Devils on 12-18 shooting. He is now shooting 46.5 percent (40-86) from beyond the arc, and has established himself as one of the best shooters in the entire country.

“He’s a really good shooter now,” Miller said. “He’s not just a 7 footer who can shoot, if he was 6’2 he’s a really good shooter.”

In all, the Wildcats had four players finish in double figures. Markkanen (30), Ristic (16), Simmons (13), Allen (18), and Comanche added nine.

The Sun Devils were able to stay competitive in the second half, but the Wildcats had answers at every turn and the result was never in doubt.

The Wildcats will have one week to rest before heading to Los Angeles for a two-game set with the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins.

“We have to be at our best to have any chance at all, both at USC and UCLA,” Miller said.

They face the Trojans on Thursday, January 19th at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be aired on Pac-12 networks.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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