Rushed Reactions: #2 Arizona 100, #15 North Dakota 82

Posted by RJ Abeytia on March 17th, 2017

Arizona overcame its own second half boredom and a number of mental breakdowns by posting an Offensive Rating of 133.3 in blowing out North Dakota, 100-82.

Arizona’s Allonzo Trier (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen prove the Wildcats still need some upperclassman leadership. After a sluggish start to the game, Arizona head coach Sean Miller inserted Jackson-Cartwright, who sparked an immediate 15-3 Wildcats run. It happened again after he was out for a brief 30-second stretch, whereupon Miller inserted him and he created an and-1 opportunity for Lauri Markannen.  Allen, as a senior the “graybeard” of the Wildcats, watched a comfortable lead drop to only seven points at the 13:30 mark of the second half. The Wildcats went on an order-restoring 12-4 run over the next four minutes, with Allen scoring seven points to lead the surge.
  2. Lauri Markannen is evolving, and that’s scary. The freshman big man took eight shots in the first half, only one of which was a three-pointer. The rest of the half involved Markannen doing his work in the paint, absorbing contact and finishing. He finished the game with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting with zero three-pointers as part of the mixture. That’s considerable restraint from a player who is shooting 43 percent from long distance on the season.
  3.  Arizona needs to play a full game on defense. The Wildcats allowed a 50-point half to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game followed by a 45-point half to North Dakota tonight. That’s not the kind of sustained defensive effort that carries a team into the third (or even the second) weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Sean Miller zeroed in on transition as an issue for the Wildcats, and although early offense is not a hallmark of Arizona’s next opponent, shooting the three-pointer certainly is. Playing only one good half of defense is not likely to work for Arizona moving forward. 

Star of the Game. Rawle Alkins is quietly reliable. This may seem like an innocuous statement, but it is important to Arizona given that he is a freshman who literally moves his teammates around on the court and virtually never suffers a freshman lapse. All he did on Thursday was score 18 points, grab five rebounds and dish out four assists without missing a shot or committing a turnover.


  • Lauri Markannen, never one for verbosity, acknowledged Arizona’s deficiencies on the defensive end: “The game felt weird because we weren’t getting stops.”
  • “One of the alarming things is something we have to get right, two good shooters who we knew were good shooters shot 9-of-17 from three.”  Just five days after saying that in NCAA Tournament play, “the three is death,” Sean Miller was justifiably concerned that the foci of Arizona’s perimeter defense, Cory Baldwin and Quentin Hooker, caught fire. With the Gaels’ crew of sharpshooters on the horizon, Miller clearly hopes that his squad picks up the defensive message by Saturday.

Sights and Sounds: Arizona didn’t travel to Salt Lake City nearly as well as expected today. In fact, the other Wildcats from Northwestern definitely outdrew these Wildcats. After literally swarming Vegas a week ago, there seemed to be a fan base letdown here. Maybe the fans are counting on a trip to San Jose next weekend?

What’s Next. Arizona will see a stern challenge from Saint Mary’s on Saturday. There were a number of defensive lapses for the Wildcats in their opener, especially in the second half where they allowed North Dakota an offensive efficiency of 125.6. Miller’s team will be hard-pressed to survive a stretch like that against a club where offense is not likely to come as easily as it did tonight.

Richard Abeytia (41 Posts)

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