PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) No. 5 Arizona was down its starting point guard Kadeem Allen to a dislocated finger, but the Wildcats are no stranger to playing shorthanded this season.
The Wildcats played a lot of the season without suspended Allonzo Trier, lost top recruit Ray Smith with a torn ACL before the season and spent six games without point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
On Thursday night, Jackson-Cartwright, Allen’s understudy, came through with a career night.
He scored a career-best 20 points and Lauri Markkanen finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds to help Arizona overcome an early deficit and breeze past Washington State 78-59.
“I’ve never been a part of a team that’s been through more than we have. . I’ve also never been a part of a group that’s been as resilient, tough-minded, kind of find-a-way group that we’ve become,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
“We wouldn’t have the record we have if we didn’t have numerous times where players stepped up.”
Arizona (24-3, 13-1 Pac-12) trailed for just over 10 minutes in the first half, but carried a 16-6 run into halftime, when it led by nine.
“Sometimes it’s one of those nights when the ball is going in,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “I just credit my teammates for finding me. The basket just seemed to be much bigger tonight.”
The Wildcats shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the second half and forced 12 turnovers. They spent the majority of the second half with the lead above 20 points.
Washington State’s leading scorer Josh Hawkinson struggled against Arizona’s interior size. He finished with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, and struggled in both matchups against Arizona this season.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars (11-15, 4-10) with 17 points. The guards accounted for more than 75 percent of WSU’s points.
“We played well in this game in the first half, we just missed layups,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.
The Wildcats started 3 of 9 from the field and Washington State took an early lead, which Arizona did not regain until its run late in the first half.
The win is Arizona’s 12th straight over Washington State.
Arizona: The Wildcats lead Oregon by a game for first place in the Pac-12 standings, and checked in as the ninth overall seed in the selection committee’s top-16 projections. A road sweep in Washington would keep Arizona first in the conference, but it still needs to play USC and No. 6 UCLA next week.
Washington State: Losers of their last five, the Cougars currently sit 10th in the Pac-12 standings, two places behind Arizona State which it holds a win over and hosts Saturday. For Kent, there is still plenty to play for during the last four games of the regular season.
“Ultimately it falls on them to be successful,” Kent said. “You can tell me you want to be successful, but if I’m looking at the same tape again . getting blown by baseline, forgetting to block out, forgetting to run a play, that’s a problem.”
Allen dislocated his pinky on his shooting hand when it snagged onto Jackson-Cartwright’s jersey in practice on Tuesday. Allen received seven stitches and, according to Miller, initial indications were less than favorable.
“Kadeem’s bone popped out of his finger,” Miller said. “That’s enough to make you faint.”
Arizona’s starting center Dusan Ristic did not play in the second half after spraining his ankle. The team is unclear whether Ristic will play Saturday.
The Wildcats jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 this week after a home sweep paired up with Louisville, Oregon, Wisconsin and Baylor taking losses. A potential road sweep of the Washington schools – two teams below 150 in the RPI rankings – should keep the Wildcats in the top 5.
Arizona: The Wildcats play Washington in Seattle then return home to host USC and No. 6 UCLA.
Washington State: The Cougars host Arizona State on Saturday.