But then Arizona fired up the engines, closing the half on a 13-2 run and never looking back.
The Cats took a 39-23 lead into the locker room, and eventually won the game by the score of 79-57.
Dusan Ristic, who was playing familiar foe Ioannis Dimakopoulos, got off to a hot start, dropping 14 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting. He was able to take advantage of his Greek counterpart as well as 320 pounder Brad Greene. Ristic finished the night with 18 points. He also added ten rebounds, giving the Serb his second career double-double.
The remaining Wildcats fed off that hot start, and despite only having seven rotation players against Irvine’s 11, made it look easy for the final 25 minutes. Lauri Markkanen got hot from beyond the arc late in the game, matching Ristic with a team-high 18 points.
Here are a couple other takeaways:
The Hazzards Return
Arizona may not have Jacob Hazzard anymore, but that didn’t stop the family from getting a bucket in McKale this year. Max Hazzard, an Anteater freshman, started at guard for UCI, and scored on a layup less than two minutes into the game.
He didn’t score again in the first half, but did get to double-figures by the end of the night thanks to a second half outburst.
Zoinks, Arizona played zone
With about 15 minutes left in the second half, the Wildcats busted out the 2-3 zone.
It came with Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons, Keanu Pinder, Lauri Markkanen, and Dusan Ristic on the floor for whatever it’s worth. It certainly worked, resulting in a couple turnovers, and an Irvine timeout in the first few possessions.
Arizona kept with it, even when Chance Comanche came in, and Pinder somehow ended up playing the 2. It was certainly different to see, and was probably the most interesting development to come out of this game. With seven scholarship players available, the zone, in theory, should keep the players more fresh than when playing straight man-to-man.
Chance getting lanced
Comanche fouled out of this game with just under nine minutes left, made one basket, and didn’t record a rebound in 17 minutes of action. This has been the biggest disappointment of the season if you look at just on-court production.
Sean Miller’s arms got quite the workout:
Arizona is back in action on Saturday. They will be on the road playing the Missouri Tigers at 10 AM MT. That game will be on ESPN2.