In what has become a bit of a trend, the Arizona Wildcats used an extremely strong second half to take down the Colorado Buffaloes in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona won this game 92-78 after leading 38-37 at the break.
The Wildcats started the second stanza with an 11-0 run, stretching the lead to 49-37. The Cats never really looked back from there on out with the exception of one hiccup.
Colorado did cut the lead back down to seven points with a little more than ten minutes remaining. Rawle Alkins and Lauri Markkanen answered with back-to-back threes to put the Cats back up by 13 after a hallmark Sean Miller timeout.
In terms of +/-, Alkins was far-and-away Arizona’s best player in this game. The Wildcats were a stunning 22 points better than Colorado when he was on the court. While his true box score numbers may not draw the eyeballs in Friday’s newspaper (15 points, one rebound, three assists), his 27 minutes played were certainly the most crucial for this team.
For the Buffs, Derrick White was able to drop 31 on the Cats with Kadeem Allen as his primary defender. But with no consistent support from anyone else throughout the game, that really didn’t end up mattering.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright managed to pick up a career-high seven rebounds. No Colorado player had more than that. Yep.
Here are some other main takeaways from this contest in Vegas.
Back on the Markk
After missing his previous 11 three-point attempts (dating back to the Washington State game in Pullman), Markkanen found the bottom of the net once in the first half, then again in the first possession of the second half to start the run that put Arizona in front for good.
Then when Colorado had made a mini-run about seven minutes into the second half, Markkanen drilled what wound up being the final blow to Colorado’s chances in this game.
The Finnisher put up a team-best 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from three) in his first collegiate postseason game. He also grabbed three rebounds.
Dropping the Dus
Dusan Ristic, who was sporting some Kinesio Tape on his right shoulder, had an impressive showing despite his recent struggles. Ristic put up 15 points and eight rebounds while looking very comfortable on the offensive end against Colorado’s bigs. A confident and smooth Dusan will be huge for this team when the NCAA Tournament gets underway in a week.
He did also benefit from Tory Miller being in foul trouble the entire game. Miller fouled out with six minutes remaining after playing just 12.
The People’s Pinder
Just like the final regular season game at Arizona State, Keanu Pinder came in and made an enormous impact on this one with his defensive presence in the first half.
The Aussie registered a couple rebounds, a block, and another would-be block had it not been for a questionable foul call. He also had a team-best +/- of +6 at the break. He did that in just seven minutes, which was the fewest minutes played by someone at half not named Kobi Simmons.
Pinder finished just +2 due to some fouling issues in the second half, but his energy and length on the defensive end is something Arizona certainly needs when the going gets tough in these games.
Thursday’s contest was yet another game where the freshman struggled immensely.
Simmons wound up having an abysmal -9 +/- rating in this one in just six minutes played. This is becoming a greater concern with each passing game.
Viva Las Vegas
New arena, same old story when it comes to the crowd being predominantly Arizona fans. Outside of the Colorado band and the minuscule group around them, there was nary a whisper of any Buff-related chant.
This is still the true McKale North, even if it’s not actually MGM anymore.
The game also featured a contest during a break where someone won a sushi platter that had a Godzilla statue attached to it. And the halftime entertainment was a lady bouncing up and down on a spring board held by two guys. If that doesn’t get you fired up, you need to get checked out by a doctor or something.
Arizona will play the winner of the fourth quarterfinal game between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins on Friday night. That semifinal will tip-off at approximately 8:30 PM PT, or 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal between the Oregon Ducks and California Golden Bears.
UA’s game will be broadcast on ESPN.