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Arizona basketball: Wildcats’ offense yet to ‘hit on all cylinders’ as Pac-12 Tournament approaches

Arizona is still waiting for Allonzo Trier and Lauri Markkanen to be clicking at the same time

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

Sean Miller can put his finger on the one moment this season when he thought the Arizona Wildcats’ offense was in full force.

“That would be like UCLA when we played them in Pauley Pavilion,” the UA head coach said. “If you watched us offensively, we had the best flow we’ve had all year.”

Allonzo Trier was making his debut following a 19-game suspension and the Wildcats posted 96 points against the third-ranked Bruins as they won by 11 in Westwood.

Arizona looked like the team in the Pac-12. It was adding its leading returning scorer to a squad that was already 7-0 in conference play and was on a 12-game winning streak.

It seemed like the Wildcats would only get better from there as Trier got acclimated, but that has not been the case. After Arizona’s win over UCLA, the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency — the amount of points scored per 100 possessions — was 116.8.

Right now, 12 games after Trier’s reinstatement, Arizona’s offensive efficiency sits at 116.4, representing a slight decline.

Don’t put the onus on Trier, though. Perhaps what has impacted the Wildcats’ effectiveness on offense the most is the month-long shooting slump Lauri Markkanen is enduring.

Markkanen is 5 for 31 from behind the arc in the last nine games, dropping his 3-point percent from nearly 50 percent to 42 percent.

“Lauri has played some excellent basketball … but his strength that everybody saw from day one here has temporarily left him,” Miller said. “I don’t know if you want to call it a slump, but he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well over the last month.”

In the last four games, the 7-footer is 0 for 11 from 3.

During that same four-game stretch, Trier has seemingly found his groove offensively, averaging 23.2 points per game while shooting 59 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3.

Miller says he does not think Trier’s return is the reason for Markkanen’s dip, but it does make him optimistic that Arizona’s offense will reach greater heights if its two leading scorers can click at the same time.

“We haven’t really seen our team offensively hitting on all cylinders with the real firepower that we have,” Miller said. “Hopefully we can see it in March, but we’re working to bring that out.”

If they can, Miller envisions the final product looking similar to the offensive prowess the Wildcats displayed against UCLA.

“And that’s the best you’re going to see with Arizona,” he said.

You can follow this author on @RKelapire