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Arizona basketball: Dylan Smith to start at small forward vs. NC State

Emmanuel Akot to the bench

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats have made a change to their starting five for Wednesday’s game vs. NC State in the Bahamas.

Redshirt sophomore wing Dylan Smith will start at small forward, while freshman Emmanuel Akot will move to the bench.

Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star reports it is a strategic move, not one made because of injury, suspension, etc.

Smith, who was suspended for Arizona’s season-opener for violating team rules, is averaging 5.5 points and 14.5 minutes per game through two contests, shooting 3-8 from the field and 3-7 from 3.

Head coach Sean Miller said before the season that the UNC Asheville transfer is one of Arizona’s top seven players. Smith has shown he is a capable shooter and has been lauded for his passing ability and length on defense.

The 6-foot-5 wing has tallied three blocks this season.

Akot averaged 5.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 23.0 minutes in three starts. The 6-foot-7 freshman shot 6-15 from the field and 4-8 from 3.

NC State is undersized at virtually every position which may have been why Miller opted to start Smith. Akot will likely have to spend more time at the 4 than usual since playing two 7-footers concurrently against the Wolfpack might not be feasible.

This will be Smith’s first career start as a Wildcat, though he started in 19 games as a true freshman at UNC Asheville in 2015-16.

Tip-off in Atlantis is set for 5 p.m. MST and the game will be streamed on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app.

Both NC State (4-0) and Arizona (3-0) are undefeated entering Wednesday’s contest.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire