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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona takes care of Buffaloes in Pac-12 quarterfinals

LAS VEGAS—The Colorado Buffaloes entered their quarterfinal matchup with the Arizona Wildcats in Thursday night with their NCAA Tournament dreams on the line, and they came out playing like it. The Wildcats struggled to pull away from the Buffaloes in the first half, but took care of business in the second half and came away with a 92-78 victory. Lauri Markkanen led the way with 20 points and three rebounds.

In a tightly contested first half, both teams found their offense in different ways. The Buffaloes attacked the Wildcats in the paint and they held a close lead several minutes in to the first half. But the Wildcats hit three of their first four 3-point shots, and took control of the game midway through the first half.

A Chance Comanche dunk gave the Wildcats a 16-15 lead with 12:49 to go in the first half and after a pair of Kadeem Allen free throws with eight minutes to go, the Wildcats led by nine and were on the verge of running away with it.

Then they went ice cold.

After starting 3-4 from range, the Wildcats finished the first half 4-11. Colorado was able to keep it close with Arizona because of their ability to score inside the paint. The Buffaloes did not score a point outside of the paint until the 13:45 mark of the first half, but it was enough to have them in front of Arizona.

The Buffaloes were playing the second part of a back-to-back after defeating the Washington State Cougars in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday night and to start the second half it was clear which team had the extra day of rest.

The Buffaloes did not get their first points until a pair of Derrick White free throws came more than four minutes in to the second half. White scored 31 points, leading all scorers in the game. Xavier Johnson scored 20 points, but along with White they were the lone bright spots for the Buffaloes. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said that his biggest disappointment with White was the fact he was only able to coach him for one season.

“This guy’s going to be a pro,” Boyle said. “There’s no doubt about it. I think he showed [that he’s a pro] tonight against a high-level defensive team, against high-level defenders. Kadeem Allen is a terrific defender on the perimeter. But this guy’s special.”

But by the time the Buffaloes got their second half scoring going, it was too late to catch up with Arizona.

The Wildcats started the second half on an 11-0 run and were ahead 49-37 at the first media timeout. Arizona’s defense began to wear out the Buffaloes, and they would lead by as much as 17. The Wildcats scored 54 points in the second half on 64 percent shooting.

Freshmen Rawle Alkins and Markkanen both had big games, right when Arizona needed it.

Alkins finished with 15 points and went 3-4 from 3-point land, his first 3-point makes since Arizona’s home game against USC on February 23. When Alkins is hitting his shots for the Wildcats, their offense can go to another level as evidenced by their 92 points on Thursday night.

“Rawle didn’t play well in the first half,” Miller said. “You could see it on his face at halftime, and he wanted to play better. I thought the big reason we won the game and broke the game open was his overall good play. Not just that he had a couple threes, but he made a lot of good basketball plays and emerged in the second half.”

Markkanen’s shooting woes have been pronounced over the last month but the Finnish star found a rhythm against the Buffaloes. He finished with 20 points, but most importantly he connected on four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who has come in to his own as a 3-point shooter himself, was confident that Markkanen would escape his rut.

“He has been a 40 percent shooter all year,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “A couple bad games doesn’t define who he is as a shooter. We knew it and it is only going to take one [3-point shot] to really get clicking again in a game. That is what happened tonight.”

Markkanen was one of five Wildcats to finish in double figures. Dusan Ristic poured in 10 of his 15 in the second half, while Rawle Alkins scored all 15 of his points in the second half. Allen finished with 13 points and Trier finished with 19.

Arizona held the Buffaloes to a 39 percent shooting clip on the night, and sent them home for good. Colorado hung tough with Arizona in the first half, but the Wildcats were able to use their physicality to outlast the Buffs.

“We wanted to outrebound them,” Miller said. “We wanted to do a good job on our end of being physical ourselves, and I thought our team did a good job of meeting the challenge tonight.”

The Wildcats will face UCLA Friday night at 9:30 p.m. MST. The game will be aired on ESPN.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter 

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