Ray Smith injury clouds Arizona basketball's 51-point win over College of Idaho
Arizona basketball kicked off its season with an 86-35 victory over the College of Idaho Coyotes. Freshman Kobi Simmons led the way in scoring with 17 points and junior Dusan Ristic starred for the Wildcats with 14 points and 9 rebounds.
Everything went according to plan for Arizona on the scoreboard, but that was well beside the point on Tuesday night.
Redshirt freshman Ray Smith went down with an apparent leg injury early in his first appearance off the bench, and headed to the locker room. He returned to the court only minutes later and appeared to be moving well. With 12:39 to go in the first half, Smith went down again, and this time he had to be helped to the locker room.
He was coming off of two ACL injuries heading in to this season, and head coach Sean Miller said it was tough on the entire Arizona team.
“Tough night for us—watching Ray go down. It certainly didn’t look good; we’ll know more in the next couple of days,” Miller said. “I think that trumps everything else tonight.”
Miller said that tonight had the feeling of a loss due to the injury.
“It’s heartbreaking. I don’t have any words to really couch it, make it better than it really is, it’s just awful.”
Miller announced before game time that sophomore center Chance Comanche was suspended indefinitely due to academic eligibility issues. Sophomore Allonzo Trier was in street clothes as well, but there is still no official word on his status. Early in the season, Arizona already lacks the depth it thought would be a strength this year.
“We don’t have any depth,” Miller said. “We’ll have to play our walk-ons. They’ll have to be ready.”
For the night's game action, a stifling Arizona defense held the Coyotes to more turnovers than points in the first half (14 turnovers, 9 points), and the Coyotes had no answer for Arizona’s size. Markkanen and Ristic took advantage down low early on, and by halftime, the Wildcats led 50-9.
Ristic started at center and displayed improved mobility and touch around the rim. He is a matchup nightmare with his ability to stretch the floor at either the power forward or center spots, and his offseason work looks like it has paid off.
Freshman Lauri Markkanen passed another test in the matchup. After an impressive showing in the Red-Blue Game, he continued to prove why he was such a highly touted prospect. He spotted up for two 3-pointers, scored early on interior passes from Ristic and played physical against the undersized Coyotes. Markkanen finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Another bright spot for Arizona was the play of senior guard Kadeem Allen, who finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists in an all-around performance. Miller was impressed with Allen’s defense and the Wildcats will heavily rely on his ball stopping abilities.
“I’ve not seen a better defensive player than Kadeem Allen,” Miller said.
Even after Tuesday’s dominating performance, Arizona still has more questions than answers. Comanche’s absence will affect their rotation, Trier is an unknown and the injury to Smith is heartbreaking for a young Wildcats team. With 10 days until the matchup with Michigan State, Arizona has to regroup in a hurry.
The Wildcats conclude their exhibition schedule at 4 p.m. on Sunday against Cal State Chico.
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