It’s not exactly a chance to hit the reset button given the regular season is more than two-thirds over. Too much time has passed even if it feels a new player has arrived to help give Arizona a boost.
Still, Sean Miller said a couple of times his team is once again “a work in progress” now that Allonzo Trier is back in the lineup and ready to be a big contributor.
“There are things we need to improve and adjust,” Miller said.
He added Thursday night “felt funny” in as much as Trier came back and there are still rotations that need to be solved and matchups to figure out.
There will be times when you will be sloppy and not perfect, Miller said.
“We weren’t at our best credit Washington Sate … and we’re trying to work things and in a few weeks I hope we are a little further along,” Miller said.
So, there will be no apologies for Arizona kind of playing a little bit sluggish in its 79-62 win over visiting Washington State, a team that is “much improved’ from earlier this year.
No matter how they played, they won in going-away fashion in a season where doing that hasn’t been the norm.
Here’s a look three things that struck me in Arizona’s 19th win of the season. UA is now 19-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference.
THE KID IS REALLY, REALLY GOOD
Freshman Lauri Markkanen is one heck of a player. How’s that for a news flash?
He’s likely a one-and-done and he’s doing things no freshman has done here, save for Mike Bibby helping lead his team to a national title. And, well, maybe Sean Elliott who was remarkable as a freshman.
Markkanen is hitting shots, rebounding, playing smartly. What can’t he do? He hit three consecutive 3-pointers and you had to wonder if he’d miss. He added 13 rebounds to tie his career-high and has scored 10 or more points in all but one game this season. He had 16 points.
“For him to not be considered one of the best freshmen in college basketball is a complete joke,” said Sean Miller after the game. “I would put him up against anybody, not just the freshman toe to toe the quality of player he is. I don’t care if you’re from Finland, Russia, China, Japan, North Dakota, Florida, California or New York City, if you have eyes and you’re watching Arizona play there aren’t many players who play the way he plays. The threes he made you don’t see college players often make.”
So why limit him against other freshmen?
“This spring no one is going to limit him to being a freshman,” Miller said, likely talking about him being a high NBA pick.
A Trier Tear
Wasn’t it great to see Allonzo Trier? He got a standing ovation with 15:19 left in the half and after a media timeout. He said he cried last week when he found out he was finally cleared to play after three months of not knowing what would happen after he tested positive for PEDs.
“I broke down,” he said when asked if he cried upon hearing the news.
He said the last three months were “tough and stressful.”
“It’s the most difficult thing in my life and I’m moving on from it,” he said. “Not looking back anymore.”
The here and now saw him have a team-high 17 points and seven assists, three more than his career high.
“It was a great feeling,” he said of his first game back from his suspension. “It felt like an eternity. But I was really excited and the energy was great.”
Finding your spot
With Trier coming back, one wondered what would happen to the minutes played and the depth and the rotations. Well, Miller sent subs in quite often with only Markkanen playing more than 30 minutes.
The one odd thing in terms of minutes played came from Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who played just 17 minutes. He had no points (he took no shots) but still had five assists.
He’s still not 100 percent from his high ankle sprain, one suffered last month that kept him out a handful of games. The last two games he’s averaged 17.5 minutes a game. He was in the mid-20s before that.
Miller said it was just circumstances that had PJC out of the mix.
“Tonight he didn’t play as much, Sunday he will,” Miller said. “We have quality depth. People have to sacrifice, not just Parker but everybody.”