As Washington’s second-half deficit continued to grow, Markelle Fultz stepped to the free throw line in a hostile McKale Center.
“Over-rated!” chanted the ZonaZoo, as the Washington Huskies guard missed his first free throw.
Cheers ensued and the chants cranked up.
The second free throw clanked off the rim, too.
“Nice shot, buddy!” yelled the pro-Arizona crowd.
The pair of missed free throws capped off what was a day to forget for the freshman. Fultz, averaging 23.7 points on 17 shots this season, finished with 16 points on 23 shots, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts along with all four of his free throw attempts.
“In any single game, he’s capable of putting his team on his back and winning it,” UA head coach Sean Miller said after the game. “He had to shoot 23 times and he had 16 points, which I think anytime you can do that to a leading scorer, that helps you.”
Indeed. Washington led Arizona 33-31 at halftime, but got outscored 46-33 in the second half, and eventually lost to the Wildcats by 11.
Things may have been different had Fultz, UW’s leading scorer and assister, had a better game, but he fell short.
Not because he is overrated as the ZonaZoo loudly declared, rather Fultz, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, was the latest victim of Kadeem Allen’s defensive prowess.
Allen, along with some help from Allonzo Trier, shadowed Fultz throughout the game, making life difficult for the 6-foot-5 guard who usually scores effortlessly.
“He’s one of the best defensive guards that you guys could ever watch,” Miller said of Allen. “I really mean that. I mean he does it on the ball. He does it against a variety of players. He’s not relegated to just guarding a point guard, or just guarding a two-guard. He can guard a 1, 2, or a 3. Off the ball, he makes plays as well.
“I think we had three charges against Markelle today, Kadeem probably had two of them. ... He did an outstanding job. He makes incredible plays.”
Allen, who is defending better than ever this season, has had a string of noteworthy defensive performances, including when he held Grand Canyon’s DeWayne Russell, who has similar numbers as Fultz, to 19 points on 21 shots.
He then limited Colorado’s Derrick White to seven points on seven shots. A game after that, Allen helped guard a trio of Arizona State’s high-scoring guards.
“He’s not just a guy who guards his man. He makes defensive plays that you don’t see often and I think he’s one of the best defensive players in the country,” Miller said. “I really believe that.”
Fultz might not, though.
“I think [Allen] got a couple calls go his way,” he said after the game. “They gave him a charge when they said I pushed off. He’s a good defender, but I didn’t feel like he bothered me. I still got to the rim and still got to my pull-up.”
Allen and Fultz will meet again on Feb. 18 when the Wildcats head to Seattle, and Fultz doesn’t expect to shoot 8-for-23 for a second time.
“I wish I would have made my layups and free throws, but that’s not going to happen next time, I’m pretty sure,” Fultz said. “This happened to be one of the games where I missed some easy ones.
“He’s a great defender, though. I’m pretty cool with him, so it was pretty cool to go against him.”
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