Arizona Wildcats guard Kobi Simmons (2) laughs with the bench, including Allonzo Trier, at right, while music plays before the first half of the Texas Southern vs. No. 16 University of Arizona Wildcats college basketball game at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Four scholarship Arizona basketball players dressed in street clothes Tuesday, and the Wildcats' hearts ached over the distinct possibility that a fifth might now be joining them.

In the second half of Arizona's 86-35 exhibition win against the College of Idaho at McKale Center, redshirt freshman Ray Smith was helped off the court with an apparent knee injury after he has already suffered ACL tears in both knees over the past 27 months.

With 12:39 left in the game, Smith went up awkwardly for a layup and then crumpled next to the basket. He signaled for help, at one point using a throat-cutting gesture, and was then helped off the floor with neither leg touching the ground.

UA coach Sean Miller said he didn't know exactly what the injury was, but that "certainly it didn't look good."

"It's heartbreaking," Miller said later. "It really is. It's awful."

Smith's injury came on a night when the Wildcats were already missing guard Allonzo Trier, who was out for unspecified reasons, and center Chance Comanche, who has been suspended indefinitely for academic reasons. Those two joined the redshirting Dylan Smith and the injured Talbott Denny in street clothes on the bench.

While UA was blitzing the undersized and undermanned Yotes in the first half, holding them to just 9.7 percent shooting before halftime, Smith briefly left the game in the first half which turned out to be a false alarm in his knees.

His first fall to the floor drew a collective groan from the crowd of 13,844 at McKale, but he walked to the locker room on his own power and returned quickly.

"He seemed fine" then, Miller said. "I don't know if what happened the first time had anything to do with the second time."

In any case, Miller said, Smith has run and jumped and landed repeatedly during preseason practices and the Wildcats have given him occasional days off practice while he eased his way back in.

"Obviously, it was a tough night for us watching Ray go down," Miller said. "It's not about our team when you see somebody like him that we've been involved for couple of years now, watching him fight, going through surgeries and rehabbing even harder, being so talented, then watching it happen."

It probably wasn't any fun for anyone in the building to see, and a postgame news conference with UA players Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kobi Simmons was understandably subdued.

"Obviously, it's a scary moment," Jackson-Cartwright said. "We just hope for the best, especially for a guy like him."

Things were so muted during their press conference that Simmons' demonstrative alley-oop dunk, on a pass from Kadeem Allen, never even came up. Simmons quietly said his teammates have given him confidence and that the Wildcats would "stick as a family" no matter what happened next.

Smith's departure left the Wildcats with just seven active scholarship players. That meant instead of getting a chance to start sorting out a rotation, Miller was simply handed the only one he may have for a while.

"We don't have any depth," Miller said.

Since Trier's status has been unclear for nearly three weeks, his non-appearance Tuesday was not a surprise. But then Comanche showed up in a polo shirt for warmups and, five minutes before game time, UA issued a statement with Miller saying Comanche was out "due to his own lack of academic responsibility."

"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," Miller said in his statement. "It is not an option to compete and be held accountable on the court but not in the classroom."

With Trier, Miller has repeatedly declined to comment and a UA spokesman said before Tuesday's postgame press conference that he could not comment again.

Tuesday's game itself was never an issue for the Wildcats. While the College of Idaho is ranked No. 7 in the NAIA Division II poll, the Yotes faced a considerable size and talent deficit that was obvious early. UA 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen scored UA's first two baskets inside, overpowering a team that had nobody over 6-foot-7.

The Wildcats led 50-9 at halftime and began inserting walk-ons with 8:30 to go.

By the time both walk-ons Jake DesJardins and Tyler Trillo made their debuts on the McKale Center floor with eight minutes left in the second half, the Wildcats were ahead 74-23 and had outshot the Yotes 56 percent to 17 percent.

The seven UA players who remained after Smith departed Tuesday's game all made up a remarkably balanced offense.

Dusan Ristic led the Wildcats with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Keanu Pinder had a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Simmons led UA in scoring with 17 points, while Jackson-Cartwright, Allen and Rawle Alkins each had 11 points.

The Wildcats were only 1 of 13 from 3-point range, however, with Alkins and Simmons each missing three. They also allowed the undersized Yotes to collect 16 offensive rebounds.

Miller started Jackson-Cartwright, Allen, Alkins, Markkanen and Ristic. Pinder was the first player off the bench, while Smith and Simmons were later inserted.

That was an eight-man rotation. Now there's probably seven.

During a pregame news conference Monday, Miller may have unknowingly foreshadowed that.

"Every year at this time, we have depth," he said, "and inevitably injuries and other things can take it away."

Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball