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Bennedict Mathurin’s ankle injury isn’t believed to be significant; Kerr Kriisa likely to debut when eligible

Photo by Simon Asher/Arizona Athletics

Arizona Wildcats star freshman Bennedict Mathurin exited in the first half of Monday’s game vs. ASU with a sprained right ankle and did not return, but X-rays came back negative and Sean Miller doesn’t believe the injury is significant.

The UA head coach compared it to an ankle injury that forward Jordan Brown suffered Thursday but was able to play through Monday in the 80-67 win.

“It might be the first ankle injury he’s ever had so, if it’s happened to you before, the first one scares you more than anything,” Miller said of Mathurin. “So my hope is that over the next couple of days that we really are able to develop some confidence in him, and he’s going to be able to see that he’s going to be alright. I don’t know, grade one, grade two, where he’s at, but there’s not a lot of swelling which is good. So I think that he should be able to get his range of motion mobility back.”

Mathurin suffered the injury soaring for a chase down block on Remy Martin and landing awkwardly on his leg. He appeared to come down on Martin’s leg but replays make it hard to know for sure.

Mathurin laid on the court holding his ankle for a while before being assisted to the locker room. He briefly emerged for warmups before the second half before shutting it down for the night.

“I don’t think that we felt it would be in his best interest to go,” Miller said. “The fact that he was able to not play will help him recover. Tomorrow and Wednesday will be big days for him, and then we’ll see where he’s at.”

Mathurin has had a terrific freshman season so far, entering Monday’s game averaging 12.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game while shooting a super efficient 52 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3 and 84 percent from the free throw line.

In 15 minutes Monday, Mathurin had eight points and seven rebounds. He has stepped up—and been moved into the starting lineup—ever since Arizona lost starting two-guard Jemarl Baker Jr. (broken wrist) for the season on Jan. 9.

Being without Mathurin and Baker means Arizona’s backcourt is down to James Akinjo, Terrell Brown Jr., Dalen Terry and, to a much lesser extent, Tibet Görener. Akinjo, Brown and Terry all played 17 minutes or more in the second half when UA saw a 26-point lead dwindle to nine.

Görener played five second-half minutes, but Miller has made it clear throughout the season that the freshman sharpshooter is not ready for a big role, still needing to add some weight to his frame.

“We’re running out of players if you want my honest answer,” Miller said. “We just are. We don’t have any guards. So, part of us in the second half, we did the best that we could. We tried to play the smartest that we could. James and Terrell both had three fouls. If we would have lost either one of those guys, we would have had players in the game that have never ever been in a game like that basically to finish it off. So we didn’t push the ball on misses. We tried to run the clock and then when you have a couple turnovers, when they can get hot from three which we know they can, and then you go to the line a couple of times and you don’t make them, the game starts to feel funny. But for the most part, we did what we needed to in the second half. And for a large portion of the first half, we played very, very good basketball, both on offense and on defense.”

The Wildcats should get freshman guard Kerr Kriisa back soon. He is eligible to play Feb. 6 and Miller said the Estonian could be cleared to practice fully as early as Tuesday. He has been limited over the last couple of weeks after suffering a broken nose and concussion in practice, injuries that once put his debut date in doubt.

Kriisa’s shooting and ball-handling will help Arizona replace Baker (and Mathurin if need be).

“We need to get him to practice a few times so he can be the most ready he can be,” Miller said, “but he comes to us at a very, very good time.”