Wildcats cruise past Cougars without Kadeem Allen; Ristic leaves game in first half
Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen, right, blocks the layup attempt of Washington State guard Ike Iroegbu during the first half of the game on Feb. 16 in Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington.
With senior guard Kadeem Allen sidelined for the Wildcats, the question of the night was who would it be for Arizona to step up and lead the Wildcats through their final road trip of the season.
The Wildcats were able to get key performances from two players who had been searching for bounce-back games, and they defeated the Cougars 78-59. Arizona moves to 24-3 (13-1 Pac-12). Parker Jackson-Cartwright led the Wildcats with 20 points.
At the beginning of their matchup with the Washington State Cougars, it was apparent the Wildcats were missing their on- and off-court leader.
"Kadeem Allen is so valuable to our team, and without him we lose our heart and soul, our best defensive player," Arizona head coach Sean Miller told FS1. "He's like that cover corner that makes everybody's job easier."
Part of the Wildcats' inability to establish their offense was the Cougars’ red-hot start. They started 7-11 (63 percent) and kept the Wildcats’ offense out of transition. The Cougars offense was able to consistently find open shots with their solid ball movement. Five different players recorded an assist, and they had seven assists on their 13 field goals in the half. The Wildcats needed an answer.
First, it was Lauri Markkanen who put the Wildcats on his back.
Markkanen had a strong first half for the Wildcats and was able to have the type of offensive bounce-back game that fans in Tucson have been waiting for.
With 14:12 to go in the first half, and the Arizona offense appearing lost without Allen, Markkanen connected on a big 3-point shot that settled down the Wildcat offense. From there, he had several key second-chance buckets for Arizona, and they were able to stretch their lead to 9 at the half. Markkanen finished game with 19 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth career double-double. Miller liked the game plan Markkanen had heading into Thursday night.
"One of the things he did today was establish himself from 2-point range," Miller told FS1. "In and around the basket, second-chance shots, I thought he really came in to the game with the right mentality."
The Wildcats were able to take over in the second half, and their aggressive defense forced the Cougars into several early second-half turnovers. The Wildcats opened the second half on a 23-11 run, and with 10:22 to play, Arizona led 63-42; the final outcome of the game was well in hand.
Junior Parker Jackson-Cartwright started in place of the injured Allen, and he finished the night with a career-high 20 points. He was able to distribute and get the Wildcats going, and he did it himself. He logged 35 minutes in the game, scoring 20 points and adding three assists.
"I thought Parker [Jackson-Cartwright] had one of the best game's he's had at Arizona," Miller told FS1. "He was called on to play, and I think he finished with a career-high."
It was also a career night for Jackson-Cartwright from beyond the arc. He went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and finished 5-for-7 overall.
Arizona dominated the glass in both halves and finished the game with a 42-28 edge over the Cougars. The Wildcats had three players in double figures, and three more scored 8 points each. Freshman Rawle Alkins added 13 points, six rebounds and three assists on 5-for-9 shooting.
Senior center Dusan Ristic left the game late in the first half and did not return due to an apparent left ankle injury.
Arizona will match up with the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. MST. The game will be aired on FS1.
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