Arizona Basketball

Arizona-Saint Mary’s game blog: Wildcats advance after tough game

Check below for in-game updates, commentary and analysis — and whatever else we decided to throw in there — as Arizona advances to the Sweet 16:


Arizona toughs out a 69-60 victory over Saint Mary’s to advance to the Sweet 16. Lauri Markkanen has 16 points and 11 rebounds. Allonzo Trier scored 14 — all in the second half. Dusan Ristic has 13.

Kadeem Allen scored 12 and had some physical, hard-driving layups.

Now, it’s on to play Xavier in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in San Jose, Calif.

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Never mind the commentary on this tweet, but this is the key (bad) call that went Arizona’s way late in the game.

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Arizona made 15 consecutive free throws before Allonzo Trier missed one with 56.4 seconds left.

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Big break for Arizona. Saint Mary’s steals the ball and has a good look from 3 in transition. The shot misses, and Lauri Markkanen shoves Jordan Hunter in the back on the rebound, but Hunter is called for the foul. Allonzo Trier makes two free throws with 1:25 left for a 67-60 lead.

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Calvin Hermanson hits a 3-pointer for Saint Mary’s with 1:51 left to make the score 65-60. Not over yet.

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Big sequence from Lauri Markkanen, who makes his first 3-point attempt of the game with 3:29 left for a 61-55 lead … and then he blocks a layup attempt from Jock Landale, with the ball going out of bounds to the Wildcats.

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Good thing Rawle Alkins was able to return after his first-half finger injury. He has been doing it all on both ends of the court, including breaking up a three-on-one fast break and then getting fouled. Arizona leads 53-48 with 7:04 to go.

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Saint Mary’s forward Dane Pineau picks up his four fouls with 12:01 left, with the game tied at 44. This should be a pretty big deal, as he has been the primary defender on Lauri Markkanen.

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It’s a hot start to the second half for Arizona, which took the lead for the first time, gave it back, got it back, gave it up … and on and one. A lot of fast-and-furious action for a game that was supposed to be a grind. Arizona leads 40-39 with 14:32 to go.

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Halftime note:

Lauri Markkanen playing like a (really, really good) traditional 7-footer. Has attempted one 3-pointer in past 2 1/2 games.

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Seems like everything went wrong in the first half, but the Wildcats finish strong and trail only 30-29 at the break after being down by 10.

A 3-pointer by Parker Jackson-Cartwright fueled a half-ending 11-4 run in which Rawle Alkins had a spinning, driving layup and made a nice interior pass to Dusan Ristic for an easy 2. Lauri Markkanen helped out with a blocked shot and a dunk off a putback, and Kobi Simmons finished the half by making two free throws.

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There is 3:43 left in the first half as Rawle Alkins checks back in after getting treatment for a finger injury. He was for about 6 1/2 minutes of game time. Not too bad. But the Wildcats trail 24-16 and are all out of sorts on offense, having missed eight consecutive shots from the field.

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A former Wildcat checks in with Saint Mary’s up 22-12:

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Everything that can go wrong has so far, including Rawle Alkins having to leave the court with 10:10 to go in the first half because of a finger injury on his right hand.

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The Gaels are continuing early momentum. Jock Landale is now 5 of 5, and Arizona is discombobulated enough on offense that Keanu Pinder just stepped back to launch a 3-pointer. That’s about 1,863rd on the list of things Sean Miller wants to see in an offensive possession. Saint Mary’s 14-10.

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Saint Mary’s winning the battle of the interior early, as Jock Landale has made 3 of 3 shots. Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche doing too much standing and watching around the rim. Gaels are up 10-6.

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We’ll see if Brandon Ashley knows what he’s talking about ..

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Arizona, if it advances, won’t have to play the No. 3 seed in the West in the Sweet 16. No. 11 Xavier, coming off an opening-round upset of Maryland, smacked third-seeded Florida State on Saturday, 91-66.

Xavier lost point guard Edmond Sumner to a knee injury in late January, but the tough-minded Musketeers shook that off to advance to their sixth Sweet 16 in the past 10 tournaments.

At least the media exhausted the Sean Miller-playing-his-old-team angle a couple of years ago, also in the Sweet 16. Miller, who jumped from Xavier to Arizona eight seasons ago, won that matchup in the 2015 tournament, as the Cats won 68-60.

The looks like another great break for Arizona, which already had, on paper, a reasonable path to the Final Four. Eliminating a physically imposing team such as Florida State in favor of a short-handed Xavier team that lost six consecutive games in February should make life even easier.

But, of course, be careful what you wish for …

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It is rare when Arizona scores 80-plus points in a game four times in a row. The Wildcats are going for No. 5 tonight against a stingy defensive team.

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When it comes to predicting today’s West region game between No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s, I can’t get past this:

The Gaels lost three times to Gonzaga, and none of the games was particularly close.

And I think Arizona is better than Gonzaga.

Yes, Saint Mary’s plays a style that can be problematic — the Gaels’ play at the second-slowest tempo in the nation, is ultra-efficient on offense, plays sticky man-to-man defense and rebounds like crazy. But almost all of it — if not ALL of it — came against teams not as athletic as Arizona, not as balanced as Gonzaga.

The games against the Zags should be the most telling, and here is what we see when we look at those games, in which the Gaels lost by by 23, 10 and 18 points:

–Their best player, center Jock Landale, was in constant foul trouble. He fouled out in 19 minutes in the first game, had four fouls in 25 minutes in the second game and another four fouls in the third game. Arizona needs to attack him with waves of Dusan Ristic, Chance Comanche and Lauri Markkanen.

–For as good as Saint Mary’s defense is, it allowed Gonzaga to shoot a combined 56.6 percent (86 of 152).

–Gonzaga attempted only 28 3-point attempts in three games. The strategy is clear, and Arizona needs to borrow it. The Wildcats need to use their athleticism on the perimeter to get into the lane or throw it in the post to see if they can pick up fouls against Landale. Do not settle for 3-point shots in this game.

–Saint Mary’s runs great offensive sets, waiting patiently for the right pass to an open player. For the season, the Gaels assist on 63.7 percent of their baskets. (Arizona is at 52. 1 percent, by comparison). But, again, the Saint Mary’s offense broke down against a top-level team like Gonzaga, as it assisted on just 45.6 percent of its field goals in three games.

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