After being beaten by an unranked Colorado Buffaloes team on Wednesday night, the Arizona Wildcats desperately needed to be a the Utah Utes on Saturday afternoon to keep their Pac-12 Conference title hopes alive.
But the Wildcats would lose to Utah, 70-64, and their chance at winning another Pac-12 title is now virtually out the window. And that's not all we learned in that game -- here are a few other takeaways.
Allonzo Trier is the team's best scorer
I was tempted to write that Trier is Arizona's best player, but I don't want to take away from Kaleb Tarczewski's defensive value. Trier is definitely Arizona's best scorer, though, and he needs to touch the ball on every possession he's on the floor. The Utes had no answer for Trier, and so he was able have terrific success on the offensive end, scoring 23 points on just 10 shots. He shot from the perimeter, he drove to the basket, he spotted up, he created his own shot, he scored in transition. Trier did it all and, if you don't already, it'd be a good time to start appreciating how skilled he is.
I wouldn't say Trier is the most athletic player, but with the type of footwork and ball-handling ability he has, it really doesn't matter. When he needs to create space for a shot he can, we he needs to shake his defender and get into the lane he can, or he can spot-up if you need him to. I don't think it'd be ridiculous to say that he's the best scorer that's been at Arizona since Derrick Williams.
Trier is averaging 18.0 points per game in the last five games, and if he's playing like this going into the NCAA Tournament, Arizona is going to be a tough out.
Chance Comanche has earned more minutes
Comanche was a pleasant surprise against Utah. He played 11 minutes -- the most he's played since Dec. 16 against NAU -- and provided the Wildcats with something they desperately needed -- defensive ability. Comanche played the four and, even though he's not as strong as Ryan Anderson, he possesses better lateral quickness and length. Anderson has issues containing dribble penetration at times, but that's an area where it seems Comanche is better. Not to mention that Comanche's length naturally makes it tougher for opponents to finish over him, where as Ryan Anderson only has a 6'8.5" wingspan -- a below average measurement for a player of his size. Comanche had two blocks in the short time he was on the court.
Offensively, Comanche contributed too. The team had an offensive rating of 200 (!) when he was on the court, and he made both of his field goal attempts, including one that was with his back to the basket in the low post.
If Comanche can provide Arizona with some extra defensive firepower AND not be a liability offensively, he needs to play. And against Utah, he did that and more.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright struggles away from home
While neither Kadeem Allen nor Gabe York were good in this game, Jackson-Cartwright was by the far the worst amongst them. He played 12 minutes, missed both of his shots, and had two turnovers to just one assist. The concerning thing is that road performances like this have become the norm.
Take a look at how Jackson-Cartwright has fared on the road this year:
|Opponent||Minutes||Points||FG||Assists||Turnovers||Offensive Rating (Arizona's ORTG = 115.3)|
Of the 10 road games, three performances have been good -- at ASU, at UCLA, at WSU -- while the others have been really poor. I didn't even know it was possible to have an offensive rating of 13, like he had against Utah.
It's also worth noting that his three "good" performances on the road have come against teams that aren't of NCAA Tournament-caliber.
Now, obviously there are no more road games this season, and PJC did perform better in neutral site games (though, he did struggle against Providence, a tournament-caliber team):
PJC has shown he's more than capable of running the offense -- I mean, just in the last home stand he was phenomenal -- but he's inconsistent. This team goes as its guards go, and with the most important games remaining in Arizona's season being away from McKale Center, if his away-from-home struggles continue, you have to wonder how far the team can go in the postseason if he's the one running the point.
For that reason, starting a now-healthy Kadeem Allen appears to be the better option. Allen, no matter where the games were being played, was one of Arizona's most consistent players before he got sick. His play has picked back up as of late, and with him being the more consistent guard plus the team's best perimeter defender, I think the team has more upside with him starting at point guard.