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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lauri Markkanen’s defense bogs down Jock Landale

Arizonas+Lauri+Markkanen+%2810%29+jumps+to+make+a+basket+over+Saint+Marys+defense%2C+during+the+Arizona-Saint+Marys+game+on+Saturday%2C+March+18.
Simon Asher

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen (10) jumps to make a basket over Saint Mary’s defense, during the Arizona-Saint Mary’s game on Saturday, March 18.

SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into Saturday’s contest between Saint Mary’s and Arizona, the Wildcats were expected to have a size advantage with twin towers Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristić.

In terms of presence in the paint, SMC’s Jock Landale was the only hurdle for the Wildcats and if Ristić focused on locking him down and the guards were active on the perimeter, then it was going to be an easy win. Except Landale wasn’t locked down and he scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting and 7 rebounds.

“He was one of the best players in the country in the first half,” said assistant coach Book Richardson.

Landale was getting offensive rebounds, knocking down baseline jump shots and had his way in the first half. Sean Miller hit the abort button on Ristić and matched Markkanen on Landale in the second half and for a player that is known for his offense, the Finnish forward limited Landale.

“Lauri’s post defense was terrific down the home stretch,” Miller said. “He’s as hard a playing guy as I’ve seen. And he won’t let his team lose to some degree. I thought his mentality defensively caught on and he got some stops.”

In the second half, Landale shot 7 points on 3-for-8 shooting and 4 rebounds.

“I got a little bit more comfortable as the game went on,” Markkanen said. ”I just tried to be as physical as I can and not let him get the ball, but of course he got it sometimes. He’s a good player.”

Playing physical was the key for Markkanen, but allowing Landale to shoot mid-range jumpers rather than have his back to the basket made him work for his points.

“Lauri’s quickness in addition to his size forced him away from the basket more and at least gave us a better opportunity to defend him, because he’s a terrific low post player,” Miller said.

Every time Landale touched the ball, Markkanen forced him to work outside and eventually Landale simply bogged down and the only way for the Gaels to have any shot of winning was if they hit threes. And a 3-for-13 performance from beyond the arc usually doesn’t result in success if the post game is taken out.

“I think we wore him out,” Richardson said. ”I think we wore him down, because [Landale] looked like an NBA lottery pick—I think he is an NBA player. We did a great job and Lauri used his quickness.”

Fortunately for Miller, if Ristić struggles with a productive big man, he has the ability to have the “next man up” mentality and switch players. That could be key if the Wildcats surpass Xavier to setup a rematch with Gonzaga and the force in the middle Przemek Karnowski.


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter. 


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