Parker Jackson-Cartwright Guides the Wildcats to 66-56 Win

Arizona continued conference play, but for the first time at home this season on Thursday evening. The Utah Utes were coming off a blowout win over Colorado hoping to carry over the dominant performance in Tucson.

Thursday night’s game was the conference home opener for Arizona. After sweeping the Bay Area, the team was excited to be back in front of the home crowd again.

Following their 10-point win over the Utes, the Wildcats are now 3-0 in conference play, tied for first. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is now 1-10 all time against the Wildcats.

Dusan Ristic finished with 18 points and eight rebounds to lead all scorers, but it was Parker Jackson-Cartwright who stepped up big to lead Arizona to the 66-56 win.

Just like he did against Cal and Stanford, PJC came in off the bench. However, his minutes and big play were the likes of a starter.

Offensively, Arizona went through a couple lapses in the game. In the first half the Wildcats struggled against Utah’s zone defense, as the Utes extended their zone and pushed the Wildcats outside of the paint.

With Utah coming into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, the Utes wanted to attack the basket. They’ve had success with second chance points, so going right at Arizona’s bigs wouldn’t be a problem. Early on, the Utes executed as planned.

Connecting on seven of their first eight shots, most of the baskets coming right around the rim. David Collette and Devon Daniels were causing major problems for the Wildcats defensively. Collette, who finished with 13 points, had several great post moves under the basket. Daniels was cutting through the lanes and taking the Arizona guards off the dribble.

After the Utes hot start, the defense started to come alive. The Utes held a 15-10 lead early in the first half, but they wouldn’t score for another six minutes, as Arizona began to move the ball smoothly, thanks in large part to PJC. He found Chance Comanche down low for one of his seven first half assists to get the crowd back into it.

Rawle Alkins finished with a solid nine points, eight rebounds, and had a beautiful three-point play during the run which put Arizona up. He attacked the basket, made Collette pick up his second foul while making the reverse layup, and made his free throw.

The rest of the first half was a back and forth battle. Just as Arizona appeared to be clicking, a small lapse on defense allowed Utah to answer with a basket of their own. But Arizona stayed level-headed and stuck to challenging the Utes down low.

As time was winding down, PJC gave Arizona big momentum at halftime as he sank a running floater at the buzzer to put Arizona up by eight, 35-27.

That momentum in fact did carry over into the second for the Wildcats. Arizona continued to attack the floor and make Utah step up to stop them. Arizona built a lead up as much as 13 points as they looked to be making the game a blowout.

Unfortunately, as soon as Arizona got comfortable, the Utes went back to work with Collette and Sedrick Barefield, who made a couple of three-pointers and layups.

Utah climbed right back into the game, and with 10:30 left in the game, the Utes closed the gap down to 48-44.

Collette went on a short run of his own before picking up his fourth foul with under six minutes left. Once he went to the bench with 3:35 left, Alkins hit a big three-pointer to push the lead to 58-50.

Rawle’s big three seemed to put the nail in the coffin. Even though there was still plenty of time left, you could see Utah’s hopes get crushed once Rawle’s three went in. Arizona closed out the game on a 16-7 run as the Wildcats won 66-56.

The final score and offensive numbers didn’t live up to what was done at Stanford, but Arizona’s defense easily lived up to the expectations.

Going into the night, only two teams in the nation have held all their opponents under 70 points: Arizona and Old Dominion. Now there is only one team, and that team is the Arizona Wildcats.

The Wildcats out rebounded Utah 38-27, which was a big key to victory. Utah led the conference in rebounding differential at plus-10.1 per game. Arizona also got to the foul line 17 times, connecting on 14 of them.

“They brought a lot of guys who are big and physical, and I don’t think we were quite ready for that,” said Collette from Utah.

Lauri Markannen came into the Utah game off of a perfect performance against Stanford. He couldn’t extend the perfect streak, but he still delivered a solid performance. Markannen finished the night with 11 points on 4-7 shooting and eight rebounds.

Even with Dusan tying his season high point totals, the game changer hands down was PJC. He only scored four points on 2-5 shooting, but the Junior PG snagged three rebounds and dished out nine assists while committing 0 turnovers.

“With Parker coming back, we have a new dimension to our game,” Dusan said after the game. “We move the ball much better. It felt like he had 15 assists.”

For someone coming off the bench, PJC surely made it feel like he played every minute. That’s how valuable he was Thursday night and how valuable he’ll be moving forward.

Arizona now shifts their focus to Saturday as they take on the Colorado Buffaloes who are coming off a one-point loss to ASU. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. MT and can be watched on the Pac-12 Network. BEAR DOWN!

OF NOTE:

Dusan Ristic found out Thursday morning that his grandfather had passed away. “Unlike a lot of kids on our team, it’s not like he’s gonna be able to go home,” Coach Miller said after the game. “He knew that and to watch him handle that, he’s a special guy. He played great tonight.”

Dusan dedicated his performance to his late grandfather. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family during this difficult time.

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