The Arizona Wildcats faced a lot of unfamiliar circumstances on Saturday morning.
Yeah, morning. That’s one of ‘em.
“It’s a different feeling for an early game, you know it’s a 10 AM start for us,” Sean Miller said after the team’s 79-60 victory. “You always worry about that, and you do the math, you wake up for pregame meal at 7:30, 6:30 whatever time it is, and I think it takes a maturity and a concentration from a group.”
Despite having played four neutral site games already, the trip to Columbia to face the Missouri Tigers was also the Wildcats’ first true road game of the 2016-17 season. And for a team with seven scholarship players, four of them in their first year as starters, that’s not something that should be overlooked no matter how dreadful Mizzou is.
But those new things didn’t phase freshmen Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons.
The duo mirrored each other in the scoring column, each pouring in career-highs of 19 points.
“We had two other freshmen really step up,” Miller said of Alkins and Simmons. “You look at what they did tonight: 15-of-28 from the field, 7-of-13 from three, eleven rebounds, 38 points, both of ‘em played 37 minutes.”
“That’s why we were able to win the basketball game.”
In the first half, it was Alkins that led the way, getting 11 of his 19 points. Then in the second half, Simmons took over, scoring 12 points in the latter stanza, while Alkins rebounded six misses.
This all came while the star freshman, Lauri Markkanen, struggled with foul trouble throughout the game, fouling out with a season-low eight points (previous low was 13 vs. Michigan State).
“Our leading scorer, you guys didn’t have a chance to see him at his best,” Miller said to the media in attendance. “He’s a heck of a player, and he played through foul trouble.”
Think it’s safe to say that both accomplished those things on Saturday in their progression at the college level.
Arizona returns to action Wednesday night in McKale Center when they host the Grand Canyon Antelopes. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 9 PM MT, and will be shown on ESPNU.