Arizona’s trio of perimeter players led a balanced offensive attack and helped hold Grand Canyon to just 35 percent shooting in the Wildcats' 64-54 win over Grand Canyon tonight at McKale Center.
In particular, the Wildcats kept GCU guard DeWayne Russell under what was the nation’s second-leading scoring average (25.4) with 19 points, and made him work hard for them. Russell shot 8 of 21 from the field and made only 1 of 7 3-pointers.
Allen was the lead defender on Russell, while chipping in eight points and six rebounds. Kobi Simmons led UA in scoring with 13 points while three players had 11 points: Rawle Alkins, Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristic. Markkanen and Alkins also had eight rebounds each.
The Wildcats shot 42.6 percent from the field but hit only 4 of 13 three-pointers and hurt themselves with a season-high 19 turnovers.
UA led by up to 16 points, but Grand Canyon cut it to just four midway through the second half, 44-40, before the Wildcats pulled off a long defensive stand.
On four successive possessions, GCU had: Russell lose the ball due to defensive pressure from Dusan Ristic and Kobi Simmons, a missed jumper from Fiffi Aidoo, a shot from Russell blocked by Allen en route to a shot-clock violation, and another missed jumper from Aidoo.
At that point, UA was back up 50-40 and the Wildcats went ahead 54-42 with 7:03 left on a pair of free throws by Ristic, then hung on the rest of the way.
Up by seven points at halftime, UA went ahead by 10 points early in the second half before Russell broke free for a pair of field goals inside the three-point arc. Russell banked in a jumper to cut UA’s lead to 40-32 and later returned for a 15-foot pullup over the defense of Simmons to make it 42-36.
In the first half, Allen scored six points and keyed a strong Arizona defensive effort to help the Wildcats to a 32-25 halftime lead.
The Wildcats held Grand Canyon to just 30.3 percent shooting while Russell scored 11 points but made just 1 of 6 3-pointers and shot 5-for-13 overall.
Allen scored six points in the first half, while Alkins had seven and Markkanen had four points to go with five rebounds.
UA struggled in the early moments of the game, coughing up three turnovers in the first four minutes while leading only 5-4 at the first media timeout, but the Wildcats went on a 19-3 run to take a 26-12 lead midway through the half.
Defense fueled the Wildcats’ run, and particularly the defense of Allen. On two occasions, Allen blocked three-pointers by Russell, and on the second one, Alkins picked the ball up and raced downcourt for an emphatic dunk to give the Wildcats a 23-12 lead.
Allen then made a splash offensively, coming down on UA’s next possession to hit a three-pointer, putting UA up by 14 with 8:37 left in the half. The Wildcats took leads of up to 16 the rest of the half, though Grand Canyon went on a 9-0 run toward the end of the half to cut it to seven.
Arizona led just 32-22 on a three-pointer by Gerard Martin with 2:11 left, prompting UA to call timeout, and three-point play by Darion Clark cut it to seven.
Arizona was playing without Allonzo Trier again, with the sophomore having missed all 11 UA games while battling an NCAA eligibility issue. UA has steadfastly declined to comment on Trier, and all UA news conferences are now prefaced by an announcement that it will not comment.
While Trier's absence was hardly a surprise, what might have been was that ESPNU announcers were calling the game remotely from Bristol, Conn. -- and the analyst working the game was Corey Williams, a former UA player who lives in Tucson and was flown to Connecticut to work it.
As far as UA officials were able to determine, there has never been a televised Wildcat men's basketball game without announcers on site. While the Pac-12 Networks sometimes produces UA games at its headquarters in San Francisco, it always sends its broadcast talent to sit courtside and call the action from McKale Center.