If anything, teams to this point have tested Arizona … and it hasn’t always been pretty. On Monday, Arizona looked nothing like a top 10 team … until late into the second half when it finally was able to put away a stubborn Northern Colorado team in a too-close-for-comfort 71-55 win at McKale Center.
Arizona can thank a number of things, including hitting 19 of 23 free throws and having just six turnovers.
Here are three things from Monday’s win that caught my eye:
PJC may be smallish but he’s tough
Parker Jackson-Cartwright is going to be a solid, steady player in the Pac-12. It was just two years ago when T.J. McConnell said Arizona was in good hands with PJC. He’d be more than capable of leading in the backcourt. PJC is doing that so far. Sean Miller talked him up in the preseason and is still singing his praises and likely will the rest of the season. He likes his leadership and moxie. Now, if he can return to hitting shots on the perimeter like he did last year. PJC had his first double-double of his career with 15 points and 11 assists.
“We want Parker to take good 3-point shots,” Miller said. “He is a much better 3-point shooter than he’s shown … (last year) he took good, high percentage threes and shot the highest percentage of any player in the Pac-12. He’s still settling into his role and how to be a starter. He’s using a ton of energy pushing the ball and playing more minutes. He has to be selective.”
Kadeem Allen is a huge factor
After suffering a knee injury the first game of the season, Allen has slowly made his way back. He played just five minutes in the last game, saying he had a “fear factor” in playing with what was still a recovering knee. He played 35 minutes Monday. Miller said UA probably wouldn’t have won withput the services of Allen, who had 10 points and three rebounds.
“He was clearly better tonight and we needed him,” Miller said. “He certainly can score easier than he scored so far and we need him to.”
He said he felt great being out there inasmuch as he’s been limited in practice. “He asked me how I feel and I said I feel good,” Allen said of the conversation with Miller. “I felt like playing basketball.”
After having a pretty good game last time out, Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen came down to earth a bit. He went 6 for 13 from the floor, but added 13 rebounds. He had a quiet 17 points. He did play a game-high 38 minutes.
“He was exhausted,” Miller said, “but against the zone and the way their team plays offense, he was the perfect guy for us to keep in. No question we went with him. With your best players, sometimes you have to allow them to play through fatigue. We don’t want to play anyone on our team for 38 minutes a game, but there are those games where they are going to be called to play more.”