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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Talent will carry Arizona, but veterans make big plays in win over No. 12 Michigan State

Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca
Arizona guards Kadeem Allen (5) and Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) battle for possession of the ball during the red and blue scrimmage at McKale Center on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.

Nothing could go right for the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats early on in their matchup with the No. 12 Michigan State Spartans. Arizona found itself in a 17-2 hole early on, and it was clear that this was a new and inexperienced group. 

Turnovers, bad offensive fouls and bad shot selection hampered the Wildcats, and they looked nervous to begin the season.

“It’s the first game of a career for a lot of our guys, and you could really see it in the first few minutes,” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller at halftime.

What got Arizona back in the game early on was their raw talent. 

Freshman Kobi Simmons took over down 21-8 with roughly 13 minutes to go in the first half. He opened the scoring for Arizona with a pull-up jumper early in the first half, and came back in the game and splashed a 3-pointer right away. He provided a spark for Arizona and scored 15 points in 13 minutes to help provide Arizona a 34-30 halftime lead.

The Wildcats have some new talent beside the trio of freshman, and Miller used junior transfer Keanu Pinder to guard Spartans star freshman Miles Bridges in the first half. 

Pinder came off the bench and played the role of the energizer bunny for the Wildcats. He did not attempt a shot in the first half, but made all of the difference on defense and on the glass. He had four rebounds and two steals, and seemed to be involved in every play while in the game.

For as good as Bridges was for the Spartans in the first half, Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen did not disappoint either. Markkanen stroked two 3-point shots in the first half and recorded four rebounds. He saw minutes at the small forward position displaying his incredible versatility.

Markkanen struggled on the defensive end, however, and had trouble guarding Bridges at times. Markkanen finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, compared to Bridges’ 21 points and 7 rebounds, but the Arizona big-man will have to learn how to guard smaller players throughout the year.

This game prominently featured seven freshmen. The Spartans had two five-star and two four-star prospects of their own, and Arizona boasts three five-star recruits. It was a matchup between the No. 3rated recruiting class of the Spartans, and the No. 6 class of the Wildcats.

Freshman Rawle Alkins struggled all night and continues to seem lost to begin the season. He is a guard who has been asked to play the bulk of his minutes as a forward, so it is understandable for the freshman to be struggling early on. Arizona just may not be able to afford it. 

Markkanen and Simmons were ready for the bright lights getting minutes outside of their normal positions as well, and they were ready to go.

Even with all of the young talent on display, it was the veterans for Arizona who came through when the Wildcats needed it most. Junior Parker Jackson-Cartwright put Arizona up 63-60 with under a minute to go, and Kadeem Allen made the two biggest plays of the night with his coast-to-coast game winning layup and subsequent steal during Michigan State’s last-ditch effort.

“He’s the guy that every coach in the country would love to have on their team,” Miller said of Allen’s late-game heroics. “It’s incredible to watch him make the shot and get the steal.”

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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