No. 13 Arizona picked up what might be a quality win by the end of the season, but lost yet another key piece in the process.
First, the good. The Wildcats used a late 15-2 run in the final three minutes to defeat Fresno State 85-72 on Wednesday. This one could have gone either way late, but Gabe York went on a quick 8-0 run by himself to push the lead out to nine, followed by six straight Allonzo Trier points to ice the game away.
Trier was the star here, scoring 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting. When Arizona played Boise State for the second time at the Wooden Legacy event in Anaheim, I wrote about how the game seemed to be slowing down for Trier and that he seemed to be on the right track for a breakout. Well, the breakout is here folks. He’s averaging 18 points over his past three games while only taking 26 shots total in those contests.
And these aren’t against cupcakes either. Boise, Gonzaga and Fresno are all solid to really strong teams, and Trier has been terrific in being aggressive, but also letting the game come to him. To be frank, he’s exactly what the Wildcats need to be successful. He’s the kind of high-upside talent they have lacked early this season and the kind of player who can help seniors York and Ryan Anderson carry Arizona to a Pac-12 title. A really good sign for the Wildcats.
However, one thing that isn’t a good sign for the Wildcats are the injuries. Five-star freshman forward Ray Smith — the kind of high upside guy that the Wildcats needed early in the year — is out with a torn ACL. Kaleb Tarczewski is already out with a stress fracture in his foot. Wing Elliott Pitts had to miss the game tonight for unspecified reasons. And midway through the second half Wednesday, guard Kadeem Allen went down with a non-contact right leg injury. Sean Miller said after the game that it was a sprained ankle, but it’ll be interesting to see how long this keeps him out.
Obviously, Arizona can ill afford yet another injury. Miller noted after the game that in his 12 years of coaching he has never dealt with as many injuries as he has this season, and it’s true. This is a snakebitten team right now in that regard. Luckily for Arizona, its depth of talent makes the Wildcats more well-equipped than others to deal with injuries. But no team can reach its potential with injuries to three starters and a solid role player.
Eventually, Arizona’s going to have to get healthy. But still, Wednesday was a good win over a solid foe, and the Wildcats deserve continued props for simply winning games.