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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona wins 13th in a row, knock off Cougars in Trier’s return to McKale

In a week that has seen many top teams in the country fall, the Wildcats were able to avoid an upset bid from the Washington State Cougars. The Cougars were able to keep themselves in the game with a big shooting night, but the Wildcats held on for their 13th straight victory.

No. 7 Arizona moved to 19-2 (8-0 Pac-12) on the season after a 79-62 victory over the Cougars. Sophomore Allonzo Trier led the Wildcats with 17 points and seven assists in his return to McKale Center.

After a fast-paced start that resembled a track meet  against the UCLA Bruins last Saturday, the Wildcats and Cougars started off their matchup at a snail’s pace. Each team started the game 1-5 from the floor, and at the first media timeout neither team was in double-digits.

Then Trier checked in for the first time at home this season.

The crowd in McKale Center gave him a standing ovation as he walked onto the floor, and Trier responded by knocking down his first 3-point attempt of the season. Trier’s entrance sparked the Wildcats, who were able to control the pace in the first half. Trier missed the team’s first 19 games, and according to the sophomore, it felt like even longer than that.

“It was a great feeling [returning to McKale Center],” Trier said. “It felt like it was an eternity for how long I haven’t played in there. I was really excited. The energy was great; my teammates were really excited for me. I’m excited that we came out on top.”

Arizona was able to control the boards and keep the Cougars at bay. They won the rebounding battle 32-20 and did not allow the Cougar front court to find their rhythm.

The Wildcats had an exceptional offensive night shooting. They finished 29-51 (57 percent) from the field and went 9-20 from beyond the arc. Freshman Lauri Markkanen finished 4-7 from beyond the arc.

The Cougars jumped on the Wildcats to begin the second half, and freshman Malachi Flynn had a chance to put the Cougars ahead as part of a 3-point play. Arizona head coach Sean Miller watched his team struggle in the beginning of the second half and gave credit to the Cougars.

“In the first eight minutes of the second half I think Washington State really took it to us,” Miller said. “They’re a much improved team from a year ago.”

Flynn would go on to miss his free throw, and freshman Rawle Alkins made the Cougars pay.

On back-to-back defensive possessions Alkins was able to get his hands in the passing lanes and create turnovers. He even managed to take one of them on his own and finished at the other end, bringing the crowd to its feet.

The Wildcats were unable to pull away from the Cougars throughout the second half. When it seemed like the Wildcats were about to make a run, the Cougars answered.

The Wildcats held a 56-48 lead with 9:27 to go, but within 40 seconds the Cougars cut the lead back down to 3 points. It seemed as if the Cougars would be able to make it a close game, but Arizona finally extended their lead in the final six minutes.

Trier knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer with 3:06 to go, giving Arizona an 18-point lead that they would hold on to for their 19th victory.

Trier shined in his first game in McKale Center this season, leading the Wildcats in points and assists. The sophomore displayed a much improved game, setting a career-high in assists.

“Allonzo played great tonight,” Miller said. “This is a player who had 31 assists on the season last year. In two games, after missing 19 games, he has 11 assists. He’s at over one-third of his assist total from a year ago in two games; he’s a much better player. He adds a dimension to our team that we’re grateful to have.”

His ability to create shots for himself led to the Cougars having to take some focus off of Markkanen. The Finnish star made them pay, once again knocking down above 50 percent of his attempts from 3-point land. Miller made a big statement about his freshman star after the game.

“For him not to be considered one of the best freshman in college basketball is a complete joke,” Miller said. “I will put him up against anybody, not just the freshmen, toe-to-toe with the quality of player he is, period. I don’t care if you’re from Finland, Russia, China, Japan, North Dakota, Florida, California, New York City; if you have eyes and you’re watching Arizona play, there aren’t many players that play the way he does.”

Arizona will face the Washington Huskies on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 1:30 p.m. in McKale Center. The game will be aired on Fox.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter

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