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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball notebook: Kadeem Allen’s go-ahead bucket; the rise of Kobi Simmons

Rebecca Noble

Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright tips in a basket amid heavy defense during the Red and Blue scrimmage in McKale Center on Oct. 14. UA participants in a set of basketball tests scored more points after being prompted about death than those who were not given the prompt.

The No. 10 Arizona Wildcats held off No. 12 Michigan State in the Armed Forces Classic after a go-ahead layup from senior guard Kadeem Allen put the Wildcats over the top 65-63. The Spartans were the highest ranked opponent the Wildcats had knocked off since beating then-No. 13 Gonzaga on the road in December last season.

Arizona’s depth was a concern with Allonzo Trier not making the trip due to undisclosed reasons. Chance Comanche returned to the lineup after sitting out both exhibitions due to academic issues, and provided a little push to give the Wildcats’ frontcourt a consistent rotation.

The Wildcats won in walk-off fashion and even though head coach Sean Miller’s club is going through some growing pains, Arizona formed somewhat of an identity that could be imperative for future neutral-site games.

First-half woes and the comeback

Arizona’s first three possessions resulted in three turnovers and Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges started the game quick with 7 points. The Spartans started the game with a 17-2 lead and it looked like the inexperienced Wildcats were going to have a long evening in Hawaii.

Just when it appeared to be another tale-of-two-halves type of game for Miller’s squad, the Wildcats went on a 32-13 run to end the half and took a 34-30 lead into the locker room.

The second half was a boxing match exchanging points and runs like they were punches. Four ties and seven lead changes between a pair of top-15 programs is about as close of a March Madness matchup as we’re going to see for the time being.

Kobi Jordan Simmons

The Arizona freshman probably has the coolest name in college basketball right now, as he was named after Kobe Bryant while his middle name relates to one of the greatest basketball players of all-time in Michael Jordan.

Simmons definitely supported his namesake and was a key contributor to Arizona’s first-half tear that gave the Wildcats the lead at halftime. The freshman went 4-of-7 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc with 18 points. Simmons showed his Kobe instinct with a jab step, baseline 3-pointer and the Jordan instinct with a baseline dunk and the foul call early in the second half.

Simmons was Arizona’s bright spot against Michigan State, but rolled his ankle with less than two minutes to play in the game. His status is unknown moving forward, but Simmons said his ankle was “fine” following the win. Despite his injury, expect to see the 6-foot-4 guard consume more minutes in the near future.

Related: Kobi Simmons ready to represent guards of the past


Arizona forced 18 turnovers against the Spartans and 12 of them were steals. Half of those steals were from the hands of Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who each had three. The starting backcourt didn’t look explosive offensively, but the dirty work was done and the minor tasks defensively helped the Wildcats late in the game.

Lineup of death with Allonzo Trier out

This doesn’t have to be the go-to set every time late in games, but an intriguing lineup of Kobi Simmons, Kadeem Allen, Lauri Markkanen, Keanu Pinder and Chance Comanche added a spark to the team.

After Ray Smith went down with a third torn ACL against College of Idaho, Miller said Markkanen will have to learn to play small forward and it showed against Michigan State. Pinder is smaller than Markkanen, but his range and size on the perimeter provides so many mismatches. Plus, Pinder working the boards and creating turnovers is his only role on the team, so focusing on that gives Arizona a scrappy dimension defensively.

Simmons’ size is tough to guard especially when he gets rolling the way he did in the first half and Allen’s leadership and experience will help Miller late in games, even if he’s not playing point guard.

With Comanche back in the shuffle, his athleticism and size causes havoc and once he finds a groove with the current rotation. Expect to see his minutes rise to starter minutes.

Mark Lyons or Kadeem Allen?

When Kadeem Allen took the inbound pass and jetted straight to the right side of the basket, Arizona fans got nostalgic from the Mark Lyons game-winner against Florida in 2012.

Both Lyons and Allen had contested floaters, but just the right touch off the glass with just seconds on the clock against reputable opponents was too close to say they weren’t similar players. 

Parallel victories

On Friday Nov. 22, 1996, the Arizona Wildcats knocked off the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels 83-72 in a neutral site game in Massachusetts, so it’s only correct the current team gets a season opening victory over another college basketball blueblood.

The 20-year anniversary of Arizona’s last national championship and how they won each game wasn’t similar, but the caliber of teams and playing on a neutral site in November is quite the parallel. Maybe the Wildcats are in good shape this season after all.

What does a win over Michigan State mean?

After the first exhibition game, the panic button was in sight because this season was supposed to be Arizona’s championship year. But a hit to the depth chart proved that the Wildcats weren’t ready just yet. However, a win over a top-15 program showed that Arizona is still Arizona and the season could still be filled with milestones.

The Wildcats’ next opponents are Cal-State Bakersfield, Sacred Heart and Northern Colorado in Tucson before heading to Las Vegas for the Continental Las Vegas Invitational.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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