SALT LAKE CITY – When asked what he expected from Saint Mary’s, Rawle Alkins’ first words at the interview podium Friday were no surprise.
He basically echoed his coaches.
“Our biggest takeaway from last night is that we have to rebound the ball,” Alkins said. “We have to rebound and defend. Saint Mary's, they're kind of the opposite of North Dakota being that they play slow. They play a slow tempo. And we know that we're going to have to play defense for 30 seconds of the clock every possession.”
That tempo: Only Virginia runs a slower run in Division I, out of 351 teams. And Saint Mary’s shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, often popping one in in the final seconds of the shot clock, when defenders get crossed up on screens or just flat tired.
“It's going to be a great defensive challenge for us,” Sean Miller said. “There's going to be long possessions. And we're going to have to be really good at the end of the shot clock, in the last ten seconds. You could play very good defense for 15 or 20 seconds but all of a sudden one of your five defenders breaks down and Saint Mary's has a way of taking advantage of that.
“And as you know, (center Jock) Landale inside is terrific. He is as good around the basket as any low post player that we've faced. But it still comes down to their execution. A lot of his scoring opportunities happen because of how well they execute and a lot of the ball screens that they use. They do a great job of putting him in position of catching the ball and score. To me it's about us being as good as we've been all season long, defending the other team.”
In a way, Miller said, playing North Dakota may have helped prepare the Wildcats – not in pace but in how the Hawks screened. North Dakota shot 50 percent in the second half of UA’s 100-82 win.
“They have a couple of guards that I think are as good as a lot of great back courts that we played against this season and they move the ball and they were tough for us to defend,” Miller said. "We could have been better at times but the one thing that I'm excited about is (Thursday) night challenged us in such a big way defensively that it leads into our next game.
“It wasn't like it was easy for us to guard them or what they had on offense doesn't represent the future. If anything, I think it really represents what we're going to go up against (Saturday) because as you guys know, Saint Mary's has terrific guard play. They move the ball. They set as many ball screens as any team that we'll face. North Dakota was similar in that aspect.”
The Daily Wildcat expanded on UA's defensive concerns.
Lauri Markkanen picked up some attention from the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Pac-12 will carry four teams into the round of 32, thanks maybe to Elijah Stewart's grudge against Ken Pomeroy, of all people.
Oregon had no trouble with MoMo Jones' old team.
Our advance coverage is attached to this post. Arizona's podium transcripts are here.