The Arizona Wildcats will be without Rawle Alkins in Thursday’s rematch against the Colorado Buffaloes, the UA announced about an hour before the 6:30 p.m. tip-off.
Sophomore Rawle Alkins will sit out tonight’s game as a precaution with minor soreness in his right foot.— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) January 26, 2018
The sophomore is experiencing “minor soreness” in his previously injured right foot, and was wearing a walking boot in Thursday’s shoot around, per Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star.
Alkins missed last Wednesday’s game at Cal for the same reason, and head coach Sean Miller cautioned Monday that Alkins could be held out of a few more games as Arizona looks to keep him healthy for March.
“That’s why we shut him down for the Cal game,” Miller said. “It had nothing to do with who we’re playing or anything else. It was the right thing for him and if we have to do that again every once in a while, we’ll do that.
“I know it’s not the perfect world for him and our team if we do that, but big picture it is.”
Miller said x-rays on Alkins’ foot were negative. The sophomore played 34 minutes in Arizona’s win at Stanford last Saturday.
Alkins, who broke his foot in late September, is averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game since returning from foot surgery that sidelined him the first nine games of the season.
“We’re going to be incredibly smart with him in terms of an extra day here or there — the totality of practice,” Miller said.
“We’re probably still too far from the finish line to think only about games, especially him since he’s missed so much time. But listening to him, making sure that we understand what his pain is (is important) because we want him healthy for the long haul and healthy for his future as well. It’s a fine line. Anything can happen to any of our players, but the things we can control we want to do the right way.”
Arizona will likely start Dylan Smith at small forward in Alkins’ place.
Smith scored 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting when he filled in for Alkins in Berkeley last Wednesday.
Miller raved about Smith on Monday, saying his attitude has been “tremendous” this season.
“Recently, I would say the last three or four weeks more so than any other time, Dylan has shown some growth in those things we’re really asking him to embrace as a member of our team,” Miller said.
“We’re not just judging him on shooting or how many baskets he scores. At Cal, he went 4-for-4 from 3, which is great. I’d love for him to go 4-for-4 for every game, but that’s not why he’s going to play more. Being a trustworthy defensive player, on assignment, making sure he can get the ball inside.
“Against Stanford for example, a couple of best plays getting the ball inside against the zone Dylan was the passer. And trying to make sure to know that on this team, his role, those things that are sometimes chalked up to be little are really big.
“Because what we really need from our bench is to come in the game and you hear that old adage of do your job, but the job is to defend and to rebound. Dylan has rebounded the ball well. To take what the defense gives, to play error free. Don’t try to force or make the home-run play. Just move the ball. That’s going to be something that this team will really grow from. And it’s not just Dylan, it’s anybody that comes into the game. Because we have enough firepower through the starting group. It’s not that we don’t want our bench to score, but some of those guys can come in and play really well and it might not show up a lot in the box score.
“So I think it takes time to get that message across. But what we really need, and I think Dylan recently has made more of those plays, has been more in that role. And it’s been good to see.”
Arizona tips off against Colorado at 6:30 p.m. MST in McKale Center. The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1.
The Buffaloes beat the Wildcats 80-77 three weeks ago in Boulder.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire