Salt Lake City — Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier combined for 30 points and No. 2-seeded Arizona rallied to defeat No. 7 Saint Mary’s 69-60 and advance to the West Regional’s Sweet Sixteen on Saturday night.
The Wildcats were on the ropes in the first half, but found life in the second half to pull away for the win.
The teams went back and forth in the second 20 minutes until Arizona went on an 11-2 run sparked by Trier, who took over the second half. He scored nine of those 11 points during the stretch with a dribble-drive layup, midrange jumpers and a 3-pointer. The run gave the Wildcats a 55-48 lead and Saint Mary’s never led again.
Arizona shot 59.1 percent from the field in the second half.
Markkanen finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Trier scored 14.
Jock Landale battled with Markkanen throughout and had his 17th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels. Teammate Calvin Hermanson added 14 points.
Saint Mary’s took a 30-29 lead into halftime as the Gaels controlled the tempo and locked down Arizona defensively for much of the half.
Saint Mary’s used a 10-2 run started by a 3-pointer by Tanner Krebs to take a 24-14 lead. Everything was going wrong for the Wildcats as their top scorers were held in check and starting guard Rawle Alkins missed much of the half with a finger injury.
Nothing came easy for Arizona in the half court on offense and Saint Mary’s kept it from getting out in transition and using its athleticism advantage.
Arizona found life late in the half and finished on a 15-6 run thanks to six points from Markkanen and a 3-pointer from Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the Wildcats lone 3 of the first half. They shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels did what they wanted to do defensively. Arizona wants to run in transition and play with pace. Saint Mary’s didn’t allow either. But the effort just couldn’t hold up in the second half and the Gaels lost in the second round for their third straight NCAA Tournament.
Arizona: The Wildcats had to work for this one. The offense was completely stymied in the first half, but Trier and Markkanen came to life in the second. A win is a win any way you get it for a team looking for its first Final Four under coach Sean Miller.
Alkins headed to the locker room around the 10:00 minute mark of the first half with a finger injury. He returned late in the half with the index and middle fingers of his right hand heavily bandaged.
Arizona will face the winner of Xavier and Florida State in the Sweet 16 next weekend.