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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Markkanen and Rabb: A match made in futility

Heather Newberry

Lauri Markkanen (10) defends against Ivan Rabb (1) during the Men’s Basketball game against California in McKale Center on Feb. 11.

The matchup between Ivan Rabb and Lauri Markkanen should’ve been one of the great head-to-head battles of the season, instead it was similar to an online dating profile gone horribly wrong. The beauty of the numbers each player came into the game with was marred by the unappealing play they displayed in front of the capacity crowd in McKale.

However, the beauty inside this matchup was that the two did, in fact, guard one another on more than one occasion. It wasn’t ideal, but the two future NBA prospects did manage to guard each other effectively enough to at least put questions about their defensive abilities to rest, if there were any.

Markkanen came out and tried to snap his now four-game ice-cold streak, but to no avail. He couldn’t find the rhythm and struggled throughout the night despite making a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket. Markkanen is now averaging 6.5 points and 4.75 rebounds per game in his last four outings. Hardly lottery pick numbers.

“He had a tough night, but he competed though,” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. “…We have to find a way to help him out on offense…Ivan Rabb was in the same situation, he couldn’t get going as well.”

Ivan Rabb on the other hand was double-teamed seemingly all night long and when he wasn’t he was met with bothersome one-on-one defense by Markkanen and Chance Comanche. Rabb’s shooting numbers were colder than Markkanen’s, but make no mistake about it, the two young dynamo’s are clinging to the headboard in an icy cold ocean of futility hoping not to let go of a promising season.

“He [Rabb] is one of the best players in the country, so we focused a lot on blocking out this weekend,” said Arizona senior guard Kadeem Allen when speaking about not giving Rabb second chance opportunities.

Markkanen finished the evening 1-for-5, ending with just six points and four rebounds. Rabb was even worse, finishing with four points and three rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting. Neither player could get it going, but both were engaged the entire way, especially on defense. The physical challenge throughout the game seemed to get the best of both superstars on the offensive end because of the amount of effort by both teams on the defensive end.

“If you score on Cal you’re a really good player,” Miller said. “I have the utmost respect for their defense. They’re organized, they’re tough, they’re big and physical, it’s difficult to score on them, it really is.”

For his work, Rabb finished with two blocks and affected countless Arizona shots with solid help defense. Markkanen, who Arizona head coach Sean Miller was not pleased with after finishing with just two rebounds against Stanford, was far more active than the four rebounds he hauled in would indicate. Markkanen was in great position multiple times to double team Rabb when he caught the ball on the low block, forcing Rabb to pass out of the double team or turn the ball over, which he did three times.

For both players moving forward the key will be to stay with the process and trust better offensive days are ahead. You don’t exactly see the same two teams every game, which is a good thing for both players.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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