SALT LAKE CITY – Arizona overcame an early 10-point deficit and a finger injury to Rawle Alkins while beating Saint Mary’s 69-60 in a second-round NCAA Tournament game Saturday at Vivint Arena.
The win moved second-seeded Arizona to 32-4 and into an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game on Thursday against Xavier in San Jose, Calif. It will be a rematch of the Wildcats’ 68-60 win over Xavier in the 2015 Sweet 16, and another chance for UA coach Sean Miller to face his former program.
Saint Mary’s finished its season at 29-5.
Lauri Markkanen led the Wildcats with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Dusan Ristic added 13 points. Alkins came back with two wrapped fingers after missing about eight minutes in the first half to score six points.
For Saint Mary’s, center Jock Landale had 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the Gaels shot well under their 39.8-percent average from 3-point range – making just 5 of 19 (26.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Scoreless in the first half, Allonzo Trier powered Arizona to leads of up to five points midway through the second half, hitting a 3-pointer, pushing off for a bank shot and later picking up a foul that made it 51-46 with 9:10 to go after he hit two free throws.
The Wildcats went on to take six-point leads into the final four minutes, with Markkanen hitting a corner 3 with 3:04 left to put Arizona ahead 61-55.
A 3-pointer from Saint Mary’s forward Calvin Hermansen with 1:51 left cut Arizona’s lead to 65-60 but the Gaels came no closer while Trier hit three of four free throws in the final 1:25 to put the game away.
Arizona wound up shooting 54.1 percent in the second half after hitting just 34.5 percent in the first half, while Saint Mary's shot 46.3 overall. Arizona outrebounded the Gaels 32-30 and scored 15 points off 13 Saint Mary's turnovers.
Trailing throughout the entire first half, Arizona took its first lead of the game immediately into the second half on an inside basket from Ristic, continuing its momentum from late in the first half. The teams pretty much traded buckets for the next eight minutes, with Calvin Hermanson hitting a 3-pointer that gave Saint Mary’s into a 44-42 lead but Kadeem Allen stole the ball from Gaels’ guard Joe Rahon on the perimeter and drove in for a dunk that tied it at 44.
In the first half, Arizona nearly erased an early 10-point deficit by closing out the final 3:35 on an 11-4 run, trailing Saint Mary’s 30-29 at halftime.
Landale had 12 points and seven rebounds in the half while the Gaels shot 50 percent fom the field and outrebounded UA 18-17. They made only 2 of 8 3-pointers, however.
The Wildcats shot just 34.5 percent and trailed the entire first half. After 14 minutes, they had multiple problems developing.
With Saint Mary’s leading 22-12 at that point, UA was getting outrebounded 15-8, had just one field goal attempt from Markkanen, had no field goals in four attempts from Trier… and had Alkins in the locker room with an injury to a finger on his right hand.
Alkins returned to the game with four minutes left with his middle and index fingers on his right hand taped together, though it was unknown which finger was hurt or what the exact injury was. He then helped UA cut the 10-point deficit with two baskets inside.
Markkanen also rebounded down the stretch before halftime, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds in the first half.
Allen missed two games last month with a dislocated finger he suffered in practice on Feb. 14, though he would likely have kept playing if it was the postseason.