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Arizona basketball: Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continue as Allonzo Trier enters ‘his best phase’

The Wildcats’ two leading scorers are heading in opposite directions as March approaches

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Miller won’t call it a freshman wall, but Lauri Markkanen’s production, especially from the 3-point line, has tumbled in recent weeks.

In the last seven games, Markkanen has only made four 3s, shooting 17 percent from 3-point range during that stretch.

The Arizona Wildcats have picked up two losses in that span, too.

Miller doesn’t believe Markkanen’s confidence has dipped, rather his downturn may partly be related to fatigue.

“Lauri has played a lot of minutes,” Miller said Monday at his weekly press conference. “We’ve asked him to do everything and it’s obvious when you start getting close to March, you wear down a little bit.”

Markkanen is averaging 30.7 minutes per game this season, and has reached the 35-minute mark twice in the last four games.

The 7-footer played 30 minutes in the loss to UCLA on Saturday, shooting 0-for-3 from behind the arc.

“I thought he looked a little fatigued in the UCLA game and you can see why,” Miller said. “One thing about the Pac-12, you’re playing that second game after you just finished that first game. You’re always playing those two games in three days and that second game it’s a monster it really is. Especially with the pace that the game was played at the other night and just kind of everything that went into that.”

Fatigue is not the only thing that has led to Markkanen’s demise, though. Miller also reiterated the need for Arizona to get Markkanen cleaner looks.

“I don’t think he’s gotten as many open looks recently as he did early on,” Miller said. “We have to do a better job of creating those for him. His teammates do as well. That’s part of the growth, the development and improvement of our team.

“Sometimes when a group of five is out there, we’re not all equal. You don’t get to shoot the same shot that he gets to shoot. Your shot from 3 isn’t as good of a shot as he shoots it. When you have somebody like him open, that ball has to get to him quickly and I think the recognition of his special talent, I think that’s something we can do better and I think we will.”

Markkanen is averaging 15.4 points per game, but has scored under his season average seven times in the last nine games.

As Markkanen tries to get back on track, Arizona’s now-leading scorer Allonzo Trier has hit his stride.

The sophomore guard has played in 11 games since his 19-game suspension was lifted on Jan. 21, and has scored 20 points or more in three straight games.

On Saturday, Trier scored a career-high 28 points against UCLA while shooting 11-for-14 from the field.

“Allonzo is like we knew,” Miller said. “He’s becoming more comfortable and I think you’re truly seeing him enter his best phase. He missed 19 games, it’s not easy all of a sudden to plug into a game, plug into a team, and it’s taken us and it’s taken him a few weeks here to settle in.

“But … he had a great game in a big game and he was a big reason why we were in the game to have a chance to win it. Not only did he have 28 points, but he was 11-for-14 from the field. He was incredibly efficient.”

With that career-best scoring output, Trier upped his season scoring average to 16.2 points per game, and he is shooting 48.6 from the field and 42 percent from 3 this season.

“If there’s a lesson here, it’s that nobody is talking about him because we lost,” Miller said. “No one really cares because you lost the game. That’s how it is in college basketball. When you win big games and your team is great, everybody gives you a lot of attention and when you don’t you’re forgotten.”

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire