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Notebook: On Allonzo Trier’s first-half struggles and backup point guard duties

Arizona’s leading scorer is distributing more and more these days

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-North Carolina State vs Arizona Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Allonzo Trier considers himself a rhythm player.

Sometimes it just takes him a while to get going, and in many cases this season, it has taken him an entire half to get comfortable against opposing defenses.

Against Arizona State, for instance, Trier scored just five points on 1-7 shooting in the first half. The second half? A complete 180. Trier poured in 18 points 4-8 shooting, including an 8-8 mark from the charity stripe to help the Arizona Wildcats escape with the win.

A similar thing happened against Alabama. Trier scored just five points in the first half, but finished with 25 on just six shots as UA won another close game.

Since tip-off of the non-conference finale against UConn (four games), Trier has scored 19 first-half points on just 6-19 shooting.

Trier is still putting up gaudy scoring numbers for the season, but his first- and second-half discrepancies haven’t just been spotted by frustrated fans.

“We’ve talked to him about it and some of the games he’s had have been incredible,” head coach Sean Miller said Monday at his weekly presser. “You score 20 points in a half, there aren’t many college players that do it and he’s done it multiple times.

“Just go on this with Allonzo, if somebody would have told you through the 16 games of our season that Allonzo Trier would be averaging 20 points per game, shooting 52 percent from the floor, over 40 percent from 3, more assists than he had last season, 80+ percent from the line, we all would have signed up for that. I think what we’re trying to do is get it to be more even from start to finish.

“That’s my responsibility, though. Once you see it happening throughout the number of times and you watch different teams defend him, we have to help him get more quality shots. I have to keep him going.”

Miller also thinks Trier’s slow starts are a product of other teams keying in on him, knowing he is one of the game’s top scorers.

“When you’re that marked man and you’re the player that he is, it’s (about) being really efficient,” Miller said. “You might have to run the court full speed 12 times, 15 times in a half to get one wide open 3 or two shots.”

And perhaps Trier doesn’t do that enough.

“If you’re picking and choosing, you’re not fluid, you’re not running, you’re not doing the little things, you’re taking away some of these opportunities,” said Miller who has been critical of his team’s effort lately. “So we’re trying to show him that and also trying to help him get quality looks, especially earlier in the game. We recognize what you recognize.”

Still, as Miller mentioned, Trier’s entire body of work has been impressive this season.

Last week, Trier was listed as the third-most efficient scorer in college basketball, averaging 1.16 points per possession (one spot below teammate Deandre Ayton). The junior is also averaging career-highs in assists per game (3.3), too.

So Arizona can live with his streakiness.

“I think Allonzo has done a great job all year,” said UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. “Without him, I don’t think we’d win some of the games (we won) this year.

“Maybe you see something that’s different (in the first half), but I see him as a guy that’s there when you need him, a guy that’s very reliable. He scores big baskets, he takes the biggest shots for us, so it’d kinda be hard to comment on that because he’s just always there when you need him and he’s one of our leaders.”

Trier taking on backup point guard duties

Trier’s scoring numbers have been down recently as a whole, not just in the first half.

Since conference play began, Trier is averaging 12.7 points per game on just 34.5 percent shooting (he is averaging 19.6 points on 52.7 percent shooting on the season).

Perhaps that dip can be explained by Trier’s new role as UA’s backup point guard — a role he has taken on because freshman Alex Barcello has been ineffective the last month and a half.

Since the start of the Bahamas trip on Nov. 22, Barcello has gone scoreless in seven of the 11 games he has played in (he missed two with an ankle injury), and he has not made a 3 in over a month.

Barcello also does not offer much defensively, rating as UA’s second-worst defender with a -0.6 defensive box plus/minus. So Barcello’s minutes are going to Trier who has played 35 minutes or more in three of the last four games.

“I think we’re moving more in that direction,” Miller said Monday on his radio show of Trier becoming the No. 2 point guard.

And while Trier’s scoring numbers have been down, he has done a fine job distributing, all things considered. The junior has posted 12 assists to four turnovers through three conference games.

“Alex’s time will come, but in terms of Allonzo, he has really improved with his team play, he has really improved his passing,” Miller said. “His assists are up, his turnovers are down, and he went through a bad stretch at the beginning of the year, especially in the Bahamas, where if you take that stretch out in terms of turnovers, he’s just about two and a half (assists) to one (turnover). Almost three to one.

“So he’s improved in that area and he is comfortable. He plays (point guard) everyday (in practice). We try to have three players who can play that position, because if you get in foul trouble, God forbid an injury, you always need two, so we’re banking on the fact those three, one of them will always be available.”

Two years ago, playing Trier at point guard would have been nothing short of a disaster. He had far more turnovers (52) than assists (31) as a freshman.

But his passing ability and vision have improved maybe more than any other aspects of his game since he arrived in Tucson.

“As a junior, I think a lot of things are more in perspective of him and he’s just out there playing, out there being more conscious and doing everything more, I feel like,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “It’s great to have him in the backcourt because he can make smart decisions and get other guys involved as well.”

Trier still isn’t an ideal fit at point guard, but he is serviceable which can't be said for UA's alternatives.

“He’s just a very good basketball player. He just sees the floor. His eyes are always up,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He’s a bigger guard so he can fire passes right over the defense that are easier and he’s unselfish. I think he’s grown over the years to be more unselfish and it’s helped our team drastically.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire