Allonzo Trier scored a season-high 22 points in his first start of the season for Arizona but his presence wasn’t a cure-all for the Wildcats.
Possibly still reeling from a blowout loss at Oregon last Saturday, UA hung on to edge Stanford 74-67 while struggling on both sides of the ball against a team they beat by 39 points on Jan. 1.
While UA built leads of up to 12 points, Stanford never went away by pounding the ball inside and scoring 17 second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds.
Stanford's Dorian Pickens tied the game at 65 game with 2:27 to go on a 3-pointer, though a contested 3 in the corner from the struggling Lauri Markkanen made it 70-67 with 1:40 left and the Wildcats hung on from there.
Trier scored his 22 points by going 12 for 12 from the free-throw line and 4 of 8 from the field. Rawle Alkins added 12 points for UA and Chance Comanche had 11.
The win moved ninth-ranked Arizona to 22-3 overall and 11-1 in the Pac-12, with a chance to take back sole possession of first place if UCLA beats Oregon on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. Stanford dropped to 12-12 and 4-8.
But the game still exposed plenty of weaknesses with the Wildcats, one of which was Markkanen’s 2 for 9 shooting. The Finnish freshman had gone 2 of 11 combined at Oregon State and Oregon last weekend and didn't appear to have his confidence back, even missing a pair of free throws in the second half.
Markkanen finished with eight points on 2-for-9 shooting with three rebounds, while center Dusan Ristic had just four points on 1-for-5 shooting.
Meanwhile, the smaller Cardinal dominated inside, receiving an emphatic double-double from Reid Travis with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Stanford scored 42 points inside compared with UA’s 16.
Stanford made only 4 of 17 3-pointers but blew by the Wildcats’ interior defense often while shooting 48.9 percent from inside the arc. Travis was nearly automatic anytime he received the ball within eight feet of the basket, which was probably no surprise to UA coach Sean Miller.
Travis had just 11 points and eight rebounds against UA on Jan. 1 but Miller spoke of his effectiveness during his weekly news conference on Monday.
“I don't know if we’ve faced a player more physical and productive than Reid Travis is,” Miller said. “We got a really good feel for how good an offensive rebounder he is. Stanford does a great job of running clearouts and isolation plays for him where he drives with the ball. He’s very mobile and physical and their team does an outstanding job of putting them in good position. He’s a one-man wrecking crew.”
Arizona took a 35-32 halftime lead and its struggles continued throughout the second half. Through the first eight minutes of the second half, Markkanen was just 1 for 6 from 3-point range while he also missed a pair of free throws when he was fouled while attempting a rebound basket.
UA led just 43-36 when Markkanen missed the free throws, although Trier went coast-to-coast for a layup that made it 47-36 and Chance Comanche scored inside. But Stanford kept hanging around and poking holes in the UA defense, including when Marcus Allen drove aggressively through the Wildcats to slam in a dunk that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 55-51.
The Wildcats went a full seven minutes and 32 seconds without field goals, finally getting a rebound basket from Dusan Ristic with 5:18 left that gave them a 61-57 lead. But Stanford stayed in the game until the end.
In the first half, Trier had 10 points to lead UA to a 35-32 halftime lead.
But the Wildcats still had moments of struggles against the Cardinal, a team they beat 91-52 in Maples Pavilion on Jan. 1 without Trier, just four days after suffering a blowout loss at Oregon.
They built leads of up to 11 points but Stanford kept back in it, kicking it out from the post to get a 3-pointer from Marcus Allen with 25 seconds left in the first half that cut it to one possession at halftime.
Stanford shot 45.2 percent against the Wildcats and UA shot only 42.8 percent, while Markkanen continued his shooting slump by going 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
Trier pulled the Wildcats out of an early shooting slump when Stanford went ahead 9-2, while Simmons proved equally effective off the bench in his first duty off the bench since Parker Jackson-Cartwright was hurt on Nov. 30 against Texas Southern.
Trier finished the first half with 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting with a pair of free throws, while Simmons had eight points on 3-for-6 shooting, including two short jumpers he hit in traffic against Stanford defenders near the basket.
Starting for the first time in six games since he returned from a 19-game suspension for a positive PED test, Trier put UA on the scoreboard after the Cardinal kept the Wildcats scoreless for the first 3:26.
Trier hit a 12-foot jumper and later a corner three to cut Stanford’s initial lead to 9-5, though the Cardinal went ahead 11-5 at the first media timeout.
At that point, Trier had the only two field goals among UA’s seven attempts, while the Cardinal played confidently and shot 5 for 9 from the field.
Trier later made a 3-pointer to pull UA within 13-11 while Simmons tied it at 13 with a short floater in the lane, before Trier pulled the Wildcats ahead for the first time, 15-13, on two free throws with 11:28 left in the half.
UA later went on an 11-1 run to take the lead for the rest of the half although
Last weekend, Trier came off the bench to average 27.5 minutes against Oregon State and Oregon, and UA coach Sean Miller said before last week’s games that he was going to move Trier into the lineup soon.
During UA’s pregame radio show today, Miller said moving Trier into the lineup will help the Wildcats’ reestablish a firm playing rotation, which has been disrupted since Trier’s return on Jan. 21 at UCLA.
“I actually think it calms things down because we were playing him very heavy minutes,” Miller said. “The fact that he’s starting now we can kind of settle into a rotation.”
Simmons will return to the bench for the first time since point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright suffered a high ankle sprain on Nov. 30 against Texas Southern. Simmons began starting Arizona’s next game, on Dec. 3 against Gonzaga, and remained in the lineup even as Jackson-Cartwright has been back since Dec. 30.
“Kobi’s a great kid and it’s a true test of how he handles things when he’s s starting for a long time and now he isn’t,” Miller said. “His role isn’t going to change. It’s just the first three or four minutes he’s not gonna be in.”