The Arizona Wildcats kicked off their exhibition season Tuesday night with a 86-35 blowout victory over the College of Idaho, but their performance on the court was secondary to the turmoil surrounding the program.
Allonzo Trier, amid rumors of a season-long suspension, didn’t play for unspecified reasons, and Chance Comanche sat out for academic reasons.
“As a member of our basketball program, you are a student and an athlete, and you are expected to do the best of your ability in both areas,” Sean Miller said in a statement. “It is not an option to compete and be held accountable on the court but not in the classroom. This suspension is indefinite.”
Trier’s status is still unknown.
Ray Smith exits with an injury — three different times
Smith, returning from two ACL tears, made his highly-anticipated debut in McKale Center, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.
Early in the first half, Smith exited the game after it appeared he twisted his knee after landing on the foot of an opposing player.
McKale Center went dead silent as Smith was on the ground clutching his left leg, though he’d eventually get up and hobble into the locker room.
A few minutes later, Smith would return to the game to a thunderous ovation, but it’d only be temporary as he’d head back to the locker room for a second time.
Smith returned to the game yet again, but suffered another leg injury (non-contact) in the second half. It looked far more serious than his first two injuries, and he needed help getting to the locker room.
“We don’t really know exactly what happened, certainly it didn’t look good,” Miller said after the game. “We’ll know more over the next couple days.”
Considering Smith’s story, seeing him suffer an injury in his very first game back was “heartbreaking,” as Miller put it.
We’ll have more information on Smith’s status when it becomes available.
Depth is now an issue
Suddenly, a roster that was deep at multiple positions is down to seven rotation players with Trier, Comanche, and possibly Smith out for the foreseeable future.
With Comanche out, Lauri Markkanen is forced to be Arizona’s backup center, meaning Miller will have to stagger his minutes with Dusan Ristic more often than he usually would, and we saw that against the Coyotes. And when both Markkanen and Ristic were out, we saw Keanu Pinder get minutes at center.
Pinder’s workload is now going to be massive with Comanche and (possibly) Smith out, and he looked like a player that can handle it, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Regardless, it appears Arizona is going to be short-handed all season, lacking depth across the board.
On a positive note, the seven scholarship players that were on the court all game for the Wildcats played well.
Markkanen finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, Ristic finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Kobi Simmons led all scorers with 17 points on 7-11 shooting.
Kadeem Allen, Rawle Alkins, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright each had 11 points.
Arizona shot 53 percent as a team, but just 1-for-13 from behind the arc.
The College of Idaho shot 18 percent (11-62) from the field.
The Wildcats return to action Sunday when they’ll take on Chico State in their final exhibition game. Tipoff in McKale Center is set for 4 p.m.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire