No. 7 Wildcats pull away for home win over Washington State

TUCSON, Ariz. — Allonzo Trier is still trying to find his way after sitting out the first 19 games of the season, learning how to mesh with his teammates and adjust to the speed of the game.

Even without all cylinders clicking, Trier is still one of the best players on the court.

Trier scored 17 points in his first home game of the season and took over stretches of the second half, helping No. 7 Arizona pull away late to beat Washington State 79-62 on Thursday night.

“This is my second game in 10 months, so I’m still not in a lot of rhythm,” Trier said. “But as I continue to play more, I’ll continue to get back to myself.”

Trier scored 12 points against UCLA on Saturday in his first game back from a 19-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He became more assertive after a quiet first half at McKale Center, scoring 11 points in the second to help Arizona (19-2, 8-0 Pac-12) finally shake the pesky Cougars.

Lauri Markkanen finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds in Arizona’s 13th straight win overall and 17th straight at home. Trier hit 6 of 12 shots and had seven assists with one turnover.

“You can’t just incorporate a player — even though Allonzo played well tonight — and all of a sudden by hitting on all cylinders from the first second he’s able to play until now,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “There are things we need to improve, adjust, figure out. Tonight felt funny.”

Washington State (10-10, 3-5) played well most of the night in one of college basketball’s toughest environments before being worn down by the Wildcats.

Conor Clifford helped keep the Cougars in it, scoring 19 points while helping them hit 20 of 35 shots from 2-point range.

“Arizona is the caliber of team that’s going to give you their 100 percent effort every single play for the entire game,” Clifford said. “If we let off for one play, which we did on numerous plays, they are going to take that and score.”

The Wildcats were coming off a convincing win over then-No. 3 UCLA for their highest-ranked victory in a true road game since 2001. Arizona jumped seven spots in this week’s AP Top 25 and needed to avoid a letdown against the struggling Cougars.

Washington State had lost four of its previous five games, but played the Wildcats tough in the first half. Clifford gave the Wildcats trouble inside, scoring nine points, and the Cougars were within 39-33.

Washington State took it a step further to start the second half, scoring the first six points to tie the game at 39-all.

The Cougars kept hitting shots, keeping it close as Trier tried to take over the game.

Far more aggressive in the second half, he scored on a couple of hard drives early, then hit Chance Comanche with a nifty bounce pass to set up a dunk.

Arizona began to pull away with about 7 minutes left, gradually stretching the lead to double digits to put it out of reach.

“The mental breakdowns cost us in the last 6 minutes, particularly when the crowd rose up and gave them their energy,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. “There are some adjustments we need to make.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona didn’t play its best game, but could move up the poll even more next week with a win over Washington on Sunday after three of the top four teams have already lost.

PJC PROGRESSING

Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is still not 100 percent healthy after missing six games with a sprained right ankle. He was limited to 17 minutes against Washington State, but was effective in running Arizona’s offense, finishing with five assists and no turnovers.

UP NEXT

Arizona hosts Washington on Sunday before heading to the Pacific Northwest to play the two Oregon schools.