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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tales of two halves: Arizona once again overcomes slow start, defeats Beavers

Courtesy Oregon State Athletics

Arizona player Chance Comanche (21) attempts to defend a lay-up from Oregon State’s Gligorije Rakocevic (23) in the Gill Coliseum on Feb. 2.

When No. 5 Arizona was down 29-27 at halftime against Oregon State, there was a sense of “Oh boy, here we go again.” It appeared to be another drawn-out game where, once again, an inferior opponent makes the game uncomfortable for the Wildcats, a team that is considered among the cream of the crop in college basketball.

It wasn’t just Arizona being down by two or that a few things went wrong in the first half; it looked like the Wildcats were tentative and at times unsure of themselves, which is very uncommon this season. Give credit to the 4-19 Beavers, because they came out and punched Arizona in the mouth.

Eighteen of OSU’s first-half points came in the paint, and for a team that was undersized from the get-go, Arizona’s front court duo of Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristic was outplayed in the first half.

This was a parallel performance from the Washington game on Sunday; more so for Markkanen, because in both first halves against Washington and OSU, the freshman forward scored 6 points on 1-for-10 shooting (0-for-4 from 3-point range) with five turnovers.

Luckily for head coach Sean Miller, 13 bench points in the first half kept the Wildcats in the game. Seven of those points did come from Allonzo Trier, who played starter’s minutes but started the game on the bench.

Head coach Sean Miller must’ve been all over the Wildcats at halftime, because Arizona came out on its toes and ready to go in the second half.

“I think we were sharper—helping each other out and a little bit more attention to detail,” Trier said. “We’re not perfect. Every great team is going to have small defensive spurts where they’re not at their best.”

Defense was a major key as the Wildcats held the Beavers to 7 points in the first 10 minutes and had a 24-7 run in the same time span.

“In the second half, we just tried to press them more, make them take tough shots, and as a result in that, we got out in transition,” Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said.

Due to the defensive presence, Arizona was comfortable, and when the Wildcats are flying on both ends, it’s a recipe for success, giving them a night-and-day performance Thursday night.

“We did a better job after halftime of defending them, and when you do that it leads to transition [points] and makes you feel better,” Miller said. “We were certainly a much better team in the second half than in the first half. That’s life right now … We did a good job putting a sub-par first half behind us and being a much better team in the second half.”

Arizona forced OSU to commit 15 turnovers, attacked the glass with 37 total rebounds and never looked back after the 17:38 mark in the second half.

“It’s been tough for us to win here in the past, so I’m really happy the way our team fought through it and we had a better second half,” Trier said.

For Saturday, Arizona can’t afford to have a lackadaisical first half against No. 13 Oregon, because the Ducks will have their way in that scenario.

On a brighter note, Arizona opens up the conference 10-0, which is the best start under Sean Miller and the best start for the program since 1997-1998.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter 

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