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Arizona basketball: Lauri Markkanen scores 22 points as the Wildcats rout Sacred Heart 95-65

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That was a stress-free victory

NCAA Basketball: Sacred Heart at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

There was no drama in this game.

The No. 10 Arizona Wildcats (3-0) went wire-to-wire on their way to a 95-65 blowout victory over the Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-2) on Friday night in McKale Center.

Lauri Markkanen continues to do Lauri Markkanen things as he led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points on 7-12 shooting.

Five other Wildcats — Dusan Ristic (13), Kobi Simmons (14), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (11), Rawle Alkins (18), and Chance Comanche (10) — scored in double figures, too.

Arizona got off to an 8-2 start and never looked back. The Wildcats led the Pioneers 49-25 at halftime and then outscored them 46-40 in the second half.

Unlike the first two games of the season, Arizona was in a comfortable spot all game.

Here were the main takeaways from the win:

Slow Fast start

In Arizona’s first two games, the Wildcats got out to deficits of 19-4 (vs. Michigan State) and 10-3 (vs. Cal State Bakersfield), but they bucked that trend against Sacred Heart.

Arizona dominated from the very beginning, opening up with an 8-2 run and eventually taking a 25-10 lead midway through the first half.

Arizona’s frontcourt had a big hand in it as Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen scored 12 of the Wildcats’ first 19 points.

Raving Ristic

Dusan Ristic struggled in the first two games of the season, averaging four points (on 3-13 shooting) and four rebounds per game, but Friday’s game was a breakout performance for him as he posted 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds — his first double-double at Arizona.

He had nine points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone, looking far more comfortable on the low block. He had two assists — including a sweet bounce-pass to Parker Jackson-Cartwright for a bucket.

Defensively, he still wasn’t great, but his production in other areas made up for it and then some, as he posted his best rebounding performance at Arizona by a longshot.

Sean Miller said he wasn’t worried about Ristic’s slow start to the season earlier in the week, and the 7-footer proved why.

Balanced effort, unbalanced offense

The only negative from this game is that Arizona shot poorly from the perimeter.

As a team, the Wildcats shot just 3-19 from behind the arc, with Markkanen hitting two of the team’s 3s.

Simply, it was not a balanced night in terms of how Arizona scored. Nearly all of its points came at the free throw line or within 16 feet of the basket.

But, despite the low 3-point percentage, Arizona shot 49 percent, attacking the rim at will and once again creating several opportunities at the free throw line, taking 26 free throws and sinking 22 of them.

The good thing is that if you’re a team that can struggle to hit shots from the perimeter at times — which this team has shown — you better be able to get to the free throw line, and so far that’s one of Arizona’s best attributes.

Rawle Alkins and Lauri Markkanen, in particular, have been terrific at getting to the line. Alkins went 8-9 from the free throw line, while Markkanen was a perfect 6-6, and Comanche 4-4.

Turnovers into transition

Arizona did a great job of turning defense into offense. Kobi Simmons in particular played the passing lanes well, coming away with three steals — two of which led to dunks for him the other way.

In total, the Wildcats forced 17 turnovers and turned that into 25 points.

There were dunks. A lot of them.

Like this one:

On the other side of the coin, Arizona only turned the ball over seven times, and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright had four assists to zero turnovers.

Ailing Allen

Kadeem Allen, nursing a right knee injury, suited up for Friday’s game and was clearly limited physically.

He came off the bench and had a minimal impact, playing five minutes and only scoring one point, hardly playing in the second half.

It was evident that Allen was not 100 percent when Simmons dumped a pass off for him in transition and Allen — despite having a clear path to the basket — couldn’t get enough lift to get the ball over the rim.

He also had a threatening moment in the first half when he got tangled up while fighting for a loose ball.

With Arizona down to eight scholarship players (including Allen), we likely wouldn’t have seen Allen play if Arizona had more depth but, alas, that’s not the case right now and Allen gave it a go.

Multiple walk-ons see the floor

Because this game was out of hand for, well, 30-plus minutes, we got to see walk-ons Tyler Trillo and Jake DesJardins make their debut with the Wildcats.

Trillo played six minutes and threw a lob to Chance Comanche in his first play after subbing in for one of two assists that he recorded.

Paulo Cruz played in the final 27 seconds in the first half, then made another appearance later in the second half. He played nine minutes in total.

Then, DesJardins was the final walk-on to check in, as he came in with just over three minutes left in the game. None of the three walk-ons registered in the scoring column.

Shaq was in attendance!

Former NBA center Shaquille O’Neal was in McKale Center Friday tagging along with his son, Shareef, who was taking an unofficial visit.

Shareef is the No. 16 player in the 2018 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com, and he apparently had a good time in Tucson.

Final box score:

Un-bee-lievable moment in McKale

The Wildcats return to action Monday when they host Northern Colorado. Tipoff in McKale Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.


You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire