The Arizona Wildcats improved to 11-1 in Pac-12 play this year, but it did not come easy, holding off the Stanford Cardinal by a score of 74-67.
For the fifth straight game, the Wildcats struggled in the first half. Stanford actually got out to an early 7-0 lead and also led 11-5 before Arizona tied it up for the first time at 15 apiece.
Arizona took control for about the next seven minutes, pushing its lead to 29-18, but after a couple easy buckets inside, the Cardinal gained a lot of confidence and swagger on the floor, heading to the locker room trailing just 35-32 at halftime.
Much of the second half saw Arizona carry a 7- to 11-point lead, but Stanford never collapsed, tying the game with just over two minutes left, and then again at the 1:56 mark.
Lauri Markkanen, who had been just 1-of-8 from the field on Wednesday night, buried a 3 from the corner, giving Arizona a 70-67 lead. From there, Stanford kept missing from the field, and some free throws resulted in the final margin.
Here are some main takeaways from McKale Center.
No start? No problem
For the first time this season, Allonzo Trier was on the floor to start a game. He replaced Kobi Simmons in the starting lineup, but the move to the bench certainly didn’t impact Simmons’ game, as he and Trier combined for the team’s first 15 points of the game.
We saw Simmons thrive in a “sixth-man” role earlier in the season when Parker Jackson-Cartwright was starting. Maybe we’ll start to see the same kind of thing as he looks to bring a new energy off the bench.
Trier ultimately finished with 22 points while sinking all 12 of his free throw attempts.
PJC for 3
After a bit of a shooting slump, Jackson-Cartwright is starting to find his stroke a little bit. After he made his first shot of the game, a 3, he was five of his last seven from beyond the arc.
His other bucket on the night was at the rim, which is the first time we’ve seen that in a while. It will be interesting to see what he looks like offensively in the near and distant future.
Another late season Chance?
Last year, Chance Comanche really turned it on in the last part of the year, which led some to wonder if he would find himself in a starting role as a sophomore.
That obviously hasn’t happened, as Dusan Ristic has started every game this year for Arizona. But Chance was clearly the better option on Wednesday night. At half, he had a team-best +15 +/- rating (Ristic was -5, Markkanen -11). Comanche was the best big man on the floor for the Wildcats.
Reid Travis was able to have his way with Ristic and Markkanen, leading Stanford with ten points and six rebounds at the midway break. One Travis bucket was so easy that Sean Miller called a timeout to yank Markkanen in favor of Comanche.
Travis was 5-of-10 from the field at halftime, but picked it up even more, finishing with 26 points (11-19 FG) and 11 rebounds. Stanford outscored Arizona 42 to 16 in the paint and had 12 offensive rebounds compared to UA’s nine.
In addition to the defensive lapses, Markkanen and Ristic also combined to go just 3-of-14 from the field, while Comanche was 2-of-3, but also went 7-of-8 from the free throw line to get 11 total points.
It’s good for Arizona that Chance is playing well again, but the interior defense remains a major question for this team as it inches close to March.
Arizona returns to action on Saturday night when it hosts the California Golden Bears at 8 p.m. MT in McKale Center. That game will be broadcast on ESPN2.