Arizona Basketball

Five top reactions to Arizona Wildcats’ “heartbreaking” exhibition win

I can’t remember a time – short of a couple of first round NCAA losses and a shot or two from reaching the Final Four – when a press conference from a coach was so sullen. That was the case Tuesday night.

Sean Miller, usually sharp with an answer, looked like he had none. Yet, he did in what turned out to be a meaningless 86-35 exhibition win over College of Idaho.

Meaningless takes on a new meaning now.

Here are my five reactions to Tuesday’s heartbreaking win. Yes, heartbreaking.

1. SMITH GOES DOWN WITH ANOTHER INJURY

Redshirt freshman Ray Smith so gracious and determined in his return after knee surgery last season, suffered what appears to be another knee injury. How serious it is will be determined later this week but it didn’t look good.

“Tough night for us watching Ray go down,” Sean Miller said. “It’s really not about our team when you see someone like him (go down).”

Everyone was thinking when he went down — you know you were – “not again?”

“Going through surgery is hard, rehab is even harder,” Miller said. “Going through it more than once not being able to play the game you love and being so talented and so young… we don’t know what happened but it certainly didn’t look good.”

Miller said they will know more in the next few of days.

As Miller said of the injury, “that trumps everything else tonight.”

2. ALLONZO TRIER UPDATE OR LACK THEREOF

Yes, even the Allonzo Trier update seemed so trivial. And there was no news there in as much as the UA said they would not talk about it. However, I can. He’s still out although he was on the court about an hour before the game shooting around with his teammates. He later came back in street clothes and watched the rest of the game in street clothes.

3. COMANCHE NO CHANCE AT PLAYING BECAUSE OF ACADEMICS

Chance Comanche and Allonzo Trier watched Tuesday's exhibition from the bench (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

Chance Comanche and Allonzo Trier watched Tuesday’s exhibition from the bench (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

Oddly, although they haven’t said why they can’t talk about Trier and why he’s out but one would think it’s a student privacy issue. Schools always defer to that when something big is out there. Yet, Miller didn’t hesitate to talk about Chance Comanche’s academic problems going into the game.

“Chance Comanche will not play in tonight’s game due to his own lack of academic responsibility,” said in an email released by UA. “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. It is not an option to compete and be held accountable on the court but not in the classroom. This suspension is indefinite.”

Kudos for the news, but I’m not sure about the consistency.

4. DEPTH NOW A SERIOUS ISSUE

With so many people out (Comanche, Trier and now possibly Smith) depth will be an issue for a team that went into the game No. 10 in the country. No question Arizona is still talented, just not as talented. Still, Miller talked about playing walk-ons to get through this.

“We don’t have any depth, we’re going to play our walk-ons,” Miller said, almost matter of fact. “They have to get ready. We will have to play three guards a lot. We’re going to have to teach Lauri Markkanen some small forward and we’re going to have to take it one day at a time and be better at doing the things we can control than ever before.”

5. MARKKANEN AND ALLEN GOOD INSIDE-OUTSIDE COMBO

Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen will be significant to Arizona's season on the frontcourt (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen will be significant to Arizona’s season on the frontcourt (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

There is no question Lauri Markkanen and Kadeem Allen will be a huge factors this year. Markkanen will create major mismatches for opponents on the perimeter and be tough inside (that will be a surprise). But on Tuesday he was impressively aggressive save for the Yotes being small.

“Ten rebounds are great (and) he’s going to be a double figure scorer,” Miller said. “As a coach we have to put him in good positions … Sometimes when you’re as skilled a shooter as he is and you’re tall (7-footer) you’re not as aggressive rebounder or you shy away from contact. That’s the furthest thing from the truth from him.”

And if Trier can’t go anytime soon, senior Allen will be huge on offense and defense. Tuesday was tough to gauge but you have to like how he handled himself. He had 11 points, eight assists and seven steals. He’s quite the backup to Trier if nothing is resolved soon.

“He’s like our second point guard out there even though he’s not a point guard,” Miller said. “We will utilize him and we’re going to do that even more now. We need him to have confidence in his shot. If he’s open he can shoot the basketball. He showed that last year. His confidence will grow in that area as he’s expected to shoot more. He’s become a heck of a player.”

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