“I don’t think we win without him.”
That comment from University of Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller is high praise for a sophomore. But it just shows how much the Wildcats have been missing Allonzo Trier this season.
Miller was addressing reporters after Saturday’s upset of the No. 3-ranked UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. Trier’s performance in that game was high on the media’s list of story lines because it was the first time this season the 6’5″ guard from Seattle was given playing time.
This is the same kid that was considered by most analysts to be the team’s best player last year as a freshman.
Trier’s permanent perch on the bench has been shrouded in mystery all season until ESPN was able to shed some light on the situation, reporting last week that Trier had been suspended after testing positive for performing-enhancing drugs in September. The youngster had asked his head coach to respect his privacy during the suspension and Miller stuck to that pledge, refusing to answer questions about why his star guard wasn’t on the floor.
The length of his NCAA-imposed exile was dependent on science and Mother Nature. After winning his appeal to the governing body, claiming that he had unknowingly been given the PED by a friend, the NCAA ruled he would be able to get back onto the court only after his system was totally clear of the substance.
Trier didn’t start against the Bruins, but his number was called before the game got too far into the first half.
During the 81 days since the season began, he has been practicing with the team, but will still need a little time to get into playing condition. Miller figures about two weeks before he’s back to the form that earned him a spot last year on the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
The worst part of this mess is that Trier considered entering the NBA draft after last season, but opted to stay with the Wildcat program. And now he has just 12 games remaining in the season.
Actually, the Cats have been doing quite well without him. The UCLA win boosts their record to 18-2 and 7-0 in conference, and will likely move them up in the national rankings. They went into Saturday’s game ranked No. 14 and on an 11-game win streak.
The fact that it has been almost 10 years to the day since Arizona and UCLA met as top-15 teams helped draw a sell-out crowd of 13,659.
Trier played 27 minutes and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. But his biggest contribution on the offensive end might have been the six points he added in the final minutes of the first half to give the Cats a 48-37 lead at the half, which kept the Bruins trying to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Arizona had five other players who also finished in double figures: Kobi Simmons (20), Lauri Markkanen (18), Dusan Ristic (11), and Rawle Alkins and Chance Comanche who pitched in 10 apiece.
And give credit to the Wildcat defense which held the Bruins to eight points below their league-leading average of 93.3 points and out-rebounded the Bruins, 42-33.
The Bruin loss also broke their 11-game home winning streak.