Lauri Markkanen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright posted their first career double-doubles to help the Arizona Wildcats shake off surprisingly stubborn Northern Colorado in a 71-55 win tonight at McKale Center.
Markkanen had 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, shooting 6 of 13 from the field though he made only 1 of 5 three-pointers. Jackson-Cartwright had 13 points and 11 assists, with only one turnover.
Point guard Jordan Davis led Northern Colorado with 20 points and five assists despite playing most of the second half in foul trouble, while Chaz Glotta had 15 points on 5 of 9 three-pointers.
The Bears (1-3) weren't expected to make it a game at all, though it was competitive for over 30 minutes. Northern Colorado was picked to finish 11th of 12 teams in the Big Sky Conference, has two of its best players redshirting while sitting out a season with the school's self-imposed postseason ban. Northern Colorado is still awaiting the NCAA to conclude an investigation that could add further sanctions.
The Wildcats managed to finish the game shooting 43.6 percent but had trouble solving the Bears’ zone for much of it. They shot just 36.7 percent at halftime and didn’t really get going offensively until about 12 minutes remained.
As a result, what was a one-point game at halftime stayed close early in the second half before Arizona appeared to gain some momentum midway through. Jackson-Cartwright made a three-point play to give UA a 40-39 lead and Markkanen hit a 10-footer on UA’s next possession, bringing out a wild chorus of cheers inside McKale Center.
But the Bears still hung within two baskets, with Glotta hitting his fifth three-pointer with 8:33 to cut UA’s lead to just 48-44, before the Wildcats gradually pulled away in the final minutes.
The Wildcats (4-0) will move on to the bracketed portion of the Las Vegas Invitational, facing Santa Clara on Thursday night in Las Vegas. Northern Colorado (1-3) will face Sacred Heart earlier Thursday.
In the first half, Arizona struggled on both ends of the floor and trailed 31-30 at halftime. The Wildcats struggled to defend the Bears and shot only 36.7 percent against Northern Colorado's zone defense.
Northern Colorado shot 44 percent through the first 17 minutes of the half, and made 4 of its first 10 three-pointers. Even though the Bears are notably smaller up front than Arizona, they outrebounded the Wildcats 21-17 and outscored them 14-12 in the paint.
Markkanen had nine points and seven rebounds to lead Arizona, while Kadeem Allen had seven points. Glotta led Northern Colorado with nine points.
Glotta entered the game averaging 3.0 made three-pointers per game but already had three (on five attempts) after just 15 minutes.
While UA again was without the apparently ineligible Allonzo Trier, Allen was back in the starting lineup after spraining his knee on Nov. 11 against Michigan State and missing UA's Nov. 15 game against Cal State Bakersfield. Allen logged five minutes on Friday against Sacred Heart.
Although speculation continues to swirl around Trier, he did not participate in pregame warmups nor dress for the game. A UA spokesman declined to comment on Trier, as the school has consistently done since UA coach Sean Miller was first asked about Trier on Oct. 14.