Arizona will continue to find its way through the pre-conference schedule. Some games will be easier than others. Tuesday night it was 78-66 “hard fought” victory for Arizona. But there was a lot to like. UA was able to shake a determined Cal State Bakersfield team and it found a decent enough shooter in Rawle Alkins.
And there was more.
Here are five things from Tuesday’s game.
Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen proved to be the star on Tuesday night. He’s going to be the guy who can score near the basket and away from the basket. There hasn’t been a big man at like him in, well, forever here at Arizona. He had 26 points, hitting all nine free throws and 8 of 11 shots from the floor.
“Lauri is one of the best players in college basketball,” Miller said. “He’s a monster. He can score; he’s a great free throw shooter. He’s a four (power forward) who is playing the small forward position. He guards perimeter players. He guards post players. We called his number in winning moments in seven or eight times. And every time he answered the bell.”
Rawle Alkins can do a lot of things
It’s very apparent Alkins loves trying to get to the basket. He’s well built and has a knack of getting into the lane. Unfortunately, he’s picked up three charging fouls in the last two games. He’s still learning the college game. But what will help him is if he hits shots on the perimeter. He hit 3 of 4 3-pointers.
“He’s a streaky shooter but he’s a much improved 3-point shooter,” Miller said. “If he gets his feet set it’s a great shot for our team. He may have taken an ill advised shot but the ones that he took his feet were set. All these guys will settle in with game experience.”
Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons meet with the media following Arizona's 78-66 win. pic.twitter.com/4csFiHHaPa
Dusan Ristic … where are you?
Don’t fret about Ristic, Miller said. He’ll be fine although he has started slowly this season. He had two points and four rebounds.
“Dusan is doing fine,” Miller said. “We’re always on him to make sure he gets defensive rebounds.”
Miller said it’s all about confidence with Ristic but he’s a starter for a reason. “He’ll keep getting better,” Miller said.
How important is Parker Jackson-Cartwright?
On Tuesday night when he wasn’t in there it was Kobi Simmons who handled the ball and, well, he’s not the point guard you want out there handling the ball. On one possession, he attempted to set up the offense and then, well, decided he’d might as well shoot. It fell short and he was quickly removed from the line up. PJC was back in there. With Allen out with a sprained knee and Trier still out, it’s going to be PJC to keep control of the game for Arizona. He also picked up his second technical (it was called a flagrant 1) but Miller didn’t mind it. PJC showed he’s got grittiness to him and he’s playing with a chip on him. Miller likes that.
Basketball Gods upset?
It’s just two games into the season and I wondered what Sean Miller did to upset the basketball gods. There’s been no resolution the Trier matter (my guess and only a guess is it’ll come before the month is over). Chance Comanche was suspended for two exhibition games but has returned. Ray Smith suffered his third knee injury in three years and now has retired from basketball. And now Kadeem Allen is out with a knee injury. And even redshirt transfer Dylan Smith is out with a concussion. He suffered it a couple of days ago in practice. Because of the injury, Arizona will bring on another walk-on to help with practice. Before anyone says “better that it happens now than later’ there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen later. Basketball gods don’t care about timing.
So how does Miller feel when someone goes down in a game? It happened when Comanche went down in the second half after a hard foul.
“You ask the question, ‘Why us?’ but ‘Why not us,’” Miller said. “Yea, another guy could get hurt but we can’t think that way. You can think optimistically and say, we hope things go in our favor.”